KATHMANDU, Jan 3: The reconstruction of the temple in the middle of the Malla-era Rani Pokhari (Queen's pond) which was heavily damaged by the 2015 mega earthquakes is yet to start even a year after the reconstruction works were halted following widespread protests for not complying with the archaeological values of the historic pond back then.
Earlier, a meeting of the officials from the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA), Department of Archaeology (DoA) and Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) had decided to rebuild the temple of the historic pond in the same style it was previously constructed.
After the meeting, the NRA had handed the responsibility of the reconstruction of the temple to the DoA while the KMC was told to demolish the concrete structure it had constructed to make a new wall and other structures of the 17th-century pond in ancient style.
Heritage conservationists have criticized the DoA for failing to restart the reconstruction of the Matrikeshwar Mahadev temple at the center of the pond and the metropolis for not paying any attention to the demolition of the concrete wall it had constructed.
According to heritage conservationist Ganapati Lal Shrestha, it is very disappointing to see that the DoA has not yet started its works. “While the KMC has at least published a tender notice for the reconstruction of the outer structures, the DoA seems to be hesitant to restart the reconstruction of the temple,” Shrestha informed Republica, adding, “However, the metropolis is also neglecting to kick-start the reconstruction since it is yet to demolish the concrete wall it had constructed.”
Officials at the DoA claimed that the reconstruction could not start due to the debate on the style of reconstruction to be adopted and that the department is trying its best to start the reconstruction at the earliest. Spokesperson of DoA Ram Bahadur Kunwar said, “We could not restart the reconstruction since we had not decided what architectural style to use. But we have reached a conclusion now and we hope to restart the reconstruction after a couple of days.” According to Kunwar, the reconstruction of the temple will be complete in about seven months.
Similarly, spokesperson of KMC Ishwar Man Dangol claimed that the metropolis will demolish the wall only after the reconstruction process starts. He informed Republica that the metropolis has issued a tender notice of Rs 126.6 million for the reconstruction. However, the reconstruction could not start after all of the three companies who were vying for the contract were deemed ineligible for the project.
“One of the bidders had incomplete paper works; another had not paid its taxes while the remaining one had made a bid of an amount which was 11 percent more than that estimated by the metropolis,” he said, adding that the metropolis is planning to issue another tender notice soon.
In December 2017, heritage conservation activists had protested against Kathmandu Metropolitan City's plan to reconstruct a café and a fountain around the pond using concrete materials and modern style. By the time that the metropolis stopped its works, it had already constructed a concrete boundary wall on the southeastern part of the pond squandering more than Rs 25 million in the process.