KATHMANDU, July 5: Heritage conversation activists have warned to knock the door of the court if the Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) office does not withdraw its decision to demolish Bag Durbar, the neoclassical architectural palace which also served as KMC main office, instead of retrofitting it.
After the Department of Archaeology (DOA) gave green single to KMC to move forward with its plan to demolish the structure, which has historical and archeological significance, the metropolis is preparing to demolish it and construct a modern state-of-the-art structure in its place.
Cultural heritage conservation activist Ganapati Lal Shrestha warned the metropolis that they will move the court. “We are preparing to send a delegation to the KMC to ask them to withdraw their decision,” Shrestha said, adding, “If they don't do so, we will seek legal remedies against the KMC's decision.” He accused the DOA of taking a double standard in the demolition of the heritage.
Last November, the DOA had opposed the proposal put forward by KMC favoring retrofitting of the building instead of demolition. Shrestha slammed the department of playing a crafty role in the demolition. “The DOA has played a double role,” he said, adding, “First, they opposed the demolition, and now they are agreeing to it.”
DOA spokesperson Ram Bahadur Kunwar denied the accusation of the activists. According to Kunwar, the department initially opposed the decision to demolish the palace as they were yet to complete the technical study of Bag Durbar.
“Previously, our technical team had not completed the report on Bag Dubar. We thought it could be restored by retrofitting,” Kunwar said. “Now, that the report has been completed, we have found out that demolition is the better option,” he added.
According to him, retrofitting will need more budget as well as time than demolition and reconstruction. He added that the report reveals that the structure is in no position to be restored.
Activist Shrestha also expressed his dissatisfaction over the role of people's representatives in the conservation of cultural heritages. “With the completion of local election, the newly elected people's representatives should have hastened conservation works,” Shrestha said. “Instead, demolition works are ongoing. We too are surprised.”
Spokesman for Kathmandu Metropolitan City Gyanendra Karki claimed that the demolition is only for the betterment of the structure. “Yes, we are demolishing the building, but only to construct a better one,” he said, adding, “We have even got the permission from the DOA to demolish the building.”
According to him, the reconstruction will cost a budget of about Rs 1.5 billion and will be completed in three years.
The Ancient Monument Preservation Act 1956 declares all kinds of architectural buildings, private or public, older than 100 years to be 'ancient monuments' prohibiting the demolition of such structures. KMC had previously claimed that the building is not Bag Durbar but Hari Bhawan which was constructed after the 1934 earthquake, so it was yet to be 100 years old and hence could be demolished. The DOA still denies this claim of KMC.
KMC made public the design of the Bag Durbar reconstruction project envisioning the building in three different parts. According to the design, the first part will be a three-storey building similar to the durbar. The second part will be a Lichchhavi-era style six-storey building and the third part will be a modern tower of 15 storeys.