KATHMANDU, April 26: Distraught with the dilly-dallying by the government to reconstruct historical sites, the locals of Hanumandhoka Durbar Square Area on Tuesday announced to reconstruct the Kasthamandap Temple on their own.
It has been two years since the massive earthquake of 2015 razed the Kasthamandap Temple at the heart of the capital. But the government bodies have done nothing yet to rebuild the temple that holds historical and archeological significance.
“We waited for the government to reconstruct the temple for the last two years. But none of the government bodies have shown any interest to expedite the reconstruction work,” said Birendra Bhakta Shrestha, a local of Basantapur and also a community activist who leads the Kasthamandap Rebuilding Campaign.
The temple which was built in the 8th century used to be a major attraction at the Hanumandhoka Durbar Square, which is enlisted in the UNESCO World Heritage Site. The ancient courtyard is one of the seven world heritage sites in the Kathmandu Valley.
“The centuries-old architecture of Kasthamandap had its own identity. We cannot just endlessly wait for the government to re-build it,” he said. “That's why we took the initiative to involve the community in reconstruction of the heritage. The temple belongs to the community as it was our ancestors who had built it centuries ago.”
The locals plan to raise funds from the Nepali communities based in foreign countries as well as from among the locals. Shrestha informed that the Nepali communities from various places have pleaded to provide financial support to their initiative to rebuild the temple.
“So far, we have not estimated the exact cost for the reconstruction but we are sure that we can get financial assistance from the Nepalis instead of international donor agencies,” he said. “We don't want to involve international donors for collecting funds as the government has already signed agreement with several international donors for rebuilding monuments. Since monuments are our own properties, we should rebuild them on our own.”
Shrestha also said that they will mobilize the local manpower for the reconstruction of the ancient monuments.
Another local, Ganapati Lal Shrestha, also a member of the campaign, said that their initiative should be used as a symbol for not involving any international agencies in the heritage rebuilding process.
Unlike the enthusiasm shown by the locals in rebuilding the heritage site, the government body like the Department of Archaeology (DoA) is entangled in bidding process for the reconstruction. The locals of Hanumandhoka have declared that they will rebuild the temple without any bidding procedure.
Campaigner Ganapati Lal Shrestha further argued that local participation in heritage rebuilding would ensure the originality of the heritage sites.
“Involving the community in reconstruction of heritage sites in Bhaktapur Durbar Square, another monument area in the Valley, has worked wonders and helped in completing the reconstruction in time,” he said. “The local community in Bhaktapur played a major role in the reconstruction of the ancient monuments there. We will also adopt the same policy.”
Locals on Tuesday also conducted a ritual at Kasthmandap followed by the declaration that they can rebuild the temple by raising funds.
Locals said that the National Reconstruction Authority has already welcomed their vision but the DoA and the Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC), other leading government bodies for the reconstruction of the same temple, have not given their official decision to handover the task to the community.
The DoA said that it had handed over the reconstruction task to the KMC. However, the DoA is not quite sure that the local community can rebuild it.
“Communities are arguing that they will rebuild the temple. However, I am not sure that they can rebuild the temple in time because they can face financial scarcity in the future. Thaw would leave the reconstruction work incomplete,” Bhesnarayan Dahal, director general of DoA, told Republica.
According to him, the DoA has estimated that around Rs 190 million will be spent for the reconstruction of the temple. He said that the KMC is in the process of reconstructing the temple but the locals are not convinced that the KMC could rebuild it in the right way.