More than three years have passed since the April 2015 earthquake destroyed many of Kathmandu’s heritage sites. Places like Gaddhi Baithak in Basantapur and temples in Patan have been rebuilt. However, Rani Pokhari, Dharahara and Kasthamandap are still in shambles. As we prepare of celebrate Visit Nepal Year 2020, the government should prioritize rebuilding of these monuments so that visitors get a sense of our capital city’s true flavor.
While contracts for Dharahara and Kasthamandap have been awarded, confusion and protests marred rebuilding of Rani Pokhari. The earlier decision to award Rani Pokhari project to Nepal Army was withdrawn after public outcry over design flaws. Similarly, locals and activists protested over a proposed reconstruction plan of Kasthamandap. They expressed deep worry about design flaws and over the reconstruction process. The Department of Archeology, in collaboration with National Reconstruction Authority (NRA), has been entrusted to oversee the reconstruction of heritage sites. But the Department has often been criticized for not consulting the locals and other stakeholders while planning and designing reconstruction projects.
Massive delays in reconstructing three of the most important heritage sites in Kathmandu speak a lot about the pace of our government and NRA. President Bidhya Bhandari kicked off mega reconstruction campaign in January 2016 by laying foundation stone in Rani Pokhari. Almost three years after that day, we are still questioning the efficacy and efficiency of those responsible for reconstruction works.
Timely reconstruction of our heritage is one aspect. Equally important is to follow proper procedure and guidelines to preserve the historicity of such monuments. We have failed in both accounts when it comes to Rani Pokhari, Dharahara and Kastamandap. There is time to correct past mistakes to ensure that the reconstructed sites represent their history, culture and tradition of the place and people.
Kathmandu is not just our capital city. It is the soul of our nation. Cities and people across the country look up to Kathmandu for guidance support and love. Whatever happens is quickly picked by other cities. If Kathmandu can get its act together to rebuild the heritage sites, may be others will also be inspired to do the same. NRA, Department of Archeology and the government must wake up and begin reconstruction works of these iconic heritage sites in Kathmandu soon.