Shortage of materials, manpower affects heritage reconstruction

Published On: May 16, 2018 07:30 AM NPT By: Biken K Dawadi

KATHMANDU, May 16: The already sluggish reconstruction work of Basantapur Durbar Square, a UNESCO world heritage site damaged by the 2015 earthquakes, has been further slowed down due to acute shortage of traditional construction materials and skilled manpower.

Reconstruction of Hanuman Dhoka and Gaddi Baithak have been affected as the authorities face difficulty supplying enough traditional construction materials. While Hanuman Dhoka is being reconstructed with financial and technical support from the Chinese government, Gaddi Baithak is being restored by the USAID.

“Although the reconstruction work supported by the two donors has been moving ahead satisfactorily, scarcity of construction materials has emerged as a major problem for us. We are worried that the reconstruction of Hanuman Dhoka may not be completed within the deadline set by the government if the problem is not addressed on time,” said Managing Director of Hanuman Dhoka Conservation Program Aruna Nakarmi. 

“The reconstruction can be completed on time only if we are provided with good quality traditional construction materials on time,” she added. According to her, the Department of Forests has not been able to supply enough wood required for the reconstruction. 

Reconstruction of the Malla-era structures at Hanuman Dhoka requires the use of traditional construction materials that include bricks of dimensions as used in the mid-sixteenth century, long and strong lumber from ~Isal~I trees and wood carved in similar style as the original ones destroyed by the earthquakes. 

Nakarmi also said that shortage of skilled manpower has affected the reconstruction work. 
“A small team of workers who can recreate the wood carvings from the mid-sixteenth century has been involved in the square reconstruction,” said Nakarmi.

Spokesperson of the Department of Archeology Ram Bahadur Kunwar said that the department is coordinating with the concerned bodies to ensure enough supply of traditional construction materials and also train new manpower to meet the reconstruction demand.

Spread over five acres, the Durbar Square houses some buildings that date back to the eighth 
century AD. It held the palaces of the Malla and Shah kings who ruled over Kathmandu, until 1886, when the then Shah king shifted to the Narayanhiti palace.

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