UNESCO announces its withdrawal from restoration of Jagannath, Gopinath temples

Published On: July 9, 2019 11:48 AM NPT By: Bipana Thapa

KATHMANDU, July 9: The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on Tuesday announced its withdrawal from the restoration works of Jagannath and Gopinath temples at Hanumandhoka Durbar Square in the capital.

The UN body, in a press release, stated that it decided to withdraw from the restoration of Jagannath and Gopinath Temples after threats made by some local groups.  

UNESCO has regretted to withdraw from the reconstruction of these cultural heritage sites which were damaged by the 2015 earthquake.

 “UNESCO is saddened to withdraw from the restoration project of these two important temples within the Kathmandu Valley World Heritage Site. This was part of the wider program for assisting the Nepalese government in carrying out the post-earthquake rehabilitation of its built heritage in accordance with international conservation standards," Christian Manhart, UNESCO Representative to Nepal said in a press release.

The reconstruction work of the two temples was being carried out by UNESCO, in close partnership with the Department of Archaeology. Japanese Government and Nepal Investment Bank Limited had extended financial support for the project.

A team of conservation experts had prepared damage assessment drawings, architectural documentation, structural analysis, archaeological research of foundations, and detailed retrofitting designs of the temples in consultation with Department of Archaeology, ward officials, local communities and priests.

"The retrofitting of these temples is of a complex technical nature, as only parts of the buildings are damaged," the UNESCO said.

In the case of Gopinath temple, the UNESCO said it would be necessary to support the entire structure during the repair of the ground floor walls.

"UNESCO’s design intended to conserve the original structure and elements, as well as strengthen both buildings to make them resilient to future earthquakes," the UN body said.

The on-site restoration work had begun on December 10. The UNESCO said that the reconstruction work was put on hold following pressure from the local groups. The local groups demanded that the temples be restored through local funds while denying international assistance.

Amid protest from the local residents, the UNESCO held series of meetings with local residents, the Ministry of Culture Tourism and Civil Aviation, National Reconstruction Authority, Department of Archaeology, and provincial assembly member of Province 3 Rajesh Shakya, while it continued its work May 15.

"However, threats were made by some locals a few days later to the restoration workers on-site. UNESCO, therefore, decided that the project had to be closed," the UNESCO stated in the press release.

The UNESCO has handed over all documentation for the restoration work to the care of the Department of Archaeology for completion according to international standards required for World Heritage Sites.

Meanwhile, the World Heritage Committee meeting that took place in Baku, Azerbaijan, expressed concerns with the progress made in the rehabilitation of Kathmandu Valley’s heritage sites.

The meeting, however, decided not to inscribe the Kathmandu Valley on the World Heritage in Danger List. The meeting has given Nepal government one more year to improve.

In its press release, the UNESCO has reiterated its readiness to support the restoration and safeguarding of Nepal’s cultural heritage sites.

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