KATHMANDU, April 26: Fifty-two shutter rooms are being constructed illegally at Khula Manch for business purposes. This is against the rules, but the authorities were not aware of what was going on.
The initial plan was to build a 29-storey Kathmandu View Tower, but there was a tentative proposal to reduce the number of floors to 12 in the wake of the 2015 earthquake. The construction tender was rewarded to Manoj Bhetwal. The tower will cover an area of 23 ropani and include an underground bus park, a cinema hall and theater, a swimming pool, restaurants, banks and the ward offices of Kathmandu Metropolis.
The view tower is now being constructed at the site of the Old Bus Park and the bus park has shifted to Khula Manch to make way for view tower construction work. Bhetwal is the controversial contractor for the overhead bridges with shop shutters at Kalanki. He also attempted construction projects at New Baneshwor but the locals went on the war path and foiled his plans.
“Bhetwal has started work on 52 shutter rooms for hire for business purposes at Khula Manch,” said architect Susan Vaidya, who is campaigning to keep the city livable.
At the initiative of the Livable Kathmandu campaign, social activists on Thursday submitted a memorandum to Deputy Mayor Hari Prabha Khadgi at Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC). About 400 social activists including Nepali Congress leader Bhimsen Das Pradhan, Ward Chair Bhairam Khadgi, provincial lawmaker Jeevan Dangol, journalist Kanak Mani Dixit and Dhruba Thapa, former president of the Engineers’ Association, staged a demonstration at the gates of the KMC office at Sundhara.
“We submitted a memorandum demanding demolition of the shutters by May 14,” said Vaidya. “We will meet Mayor Bidya Sundar Shakya tomorrow, and if the authorities fail to act in time, we will intensify our protests,” he warned, recalling their movement concerning reconstruction work at the historic Ranipokhari. The movement succeeded in causing a rethink about Ranipokhari reconstruction.
Ishwar Man Dangol, spokesperson for KMC, said the shutter rooms being constructed at Khula Manch are illegal. “There is nothing in the agreement signed with him [contractor], that allows him to construct such structures,” said Dangol. “We will ask him to demolish the shutters. If he does not oblige, we will dismantle them ourselves,” he added.
Various public sector entities are continuing to occupy Khula Manch space, threatening the very existence of these historic grounds for public gatherings in the nation’s capital.
KMC already took up half the open space when it shifted the old bus park there. The move was widely criticized and seen as an encroachment of the commons on the pretext of setting up a temporary facility.
Bir Hospital has constructed three prefab structures inside the public space with the purpose of running an emergency field hospital. According to officials from KMC, the field hospital is being constructed without permission from KMC, the body responsible for the protection of open spaces within the metropolitan area.
Meanwhile, KMC has allowed Durbar High School to set up a storage facility at Khula Manch for construction materials being used in the school’s reconstruction.