KATHMANDU, Jan 20: After Rani Pokhari reconstruction courted controversies, an expert committee formed to make suggestions to the Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) office on the reconstruction of the pond organized a public hearing on Wednesday to discuss its preliminary report with the stakeholders and also collect suggestions from them.
A large number of locals and heritage activists, who believe that the 17th-century pond should be restored to its original form, had turned up in the hope that at least the KMC mayor and deputy mayor would attend the hearing so that they can express their concerns to their representatives straight. But much to their dismay, both of them preferred to stay away from the public hearing.
“I thought both Mayor Bidhya Sundar Shakya and Deputy Mayor Hari Prabha Khadki would actively participate in the public hearing and assure locals like me who are worried about the Malla era heritage that it will be restored to its original form. Their absence shows they are not serious about our concerns,” Sailesh Shakya, a local, said. He said he wanted to ask the representatives why they are silent even when black mud, sand and Malla-era bricks found during the pond excavation were lost from the construction site.
Not only Shakya, other two dozen participants also raised questions about Rani Pokhari reconstruction seeking answers from Mayor Shakya and Deputy Mayor Khadki.
While the public hearing was going on, both of them were in their offices but they did not come. “It's not that they didn't want to attend. Since they had a meeting, they could not go for the public hearing,” said Rajendra Staphit, the advisor to the KMC mayor. However, participants in the hearing said that no meeting could be important than the public hearing where locals had come to air their views on an important issue like the conservation of a landmark heritage site of the country.
Spokesperson for KMC, Gyanendra Karki said that it was not necessary for the people's representatives to attend the public hearing. “The hearing was conducted by the expert committee not KMC. It is not necessary that KMC mayor and deputy mayor attend the program conducted by a committee,” he said.
Karki, who is also the coordinator of the committee, said that the committee had however sent an invitation letter to KMC for participation. “Even though they didn't participate in the hearing, the mayor and deputy mayor shall go through all the concerns raised by the participants seriously and take necessary initiatives as required,” he added.
However, another heritage activist Ganapati Lal Shrestha said that the absence of the people's representatives in the public hearing despite the fact that they were elected by the locals raises serious question about them.