UNESCO to quit restoration at Hanumandhoka temples, cites obstruction by locals

Published On: July 10, 2019 04:00 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

KATHMANDU, July 10: The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has decided to pull out of the restoration of Jagannath and Sree Krishna Mahavishnu (Gopinath) Temples at Hanumandhoka Durbar Square, a World Heritage Site. The temples were damaged in the 2015 earthquake.

The UNESCO office in Nepal, in a statement on Tuesday, said it regrets to withdraw from the restoration of the project after the work was put on hold citing the wish of some locals for the temples to be restored through local funds alone and without international assistance. UNESCO has cited threats from some locals to restoration workers on-site for the pull-out decision.

“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,” the statement quoted UNESCO Representative to Nepal Christian Manhart as saying.

The renovation work was being implemented by UNESCO in close partnership with the Department of Archaeology and funding from the Japanese Government and Nepal Investment Bank Limited. Damage assessment drawings, architectural documentation, structural analysis, archaeological research of the foundations, and detailed retrofitting designs were prepared by a team of local conservation experts, in close consultation with the Department of Archaeology, ward officials, local communities and the temple priests, it is stated.

Heritage Conservation campaigner Ganapati Lal Shrestha said it is unfortunate that UNESCO was forced to withdraw from the renovation work. “The threat issued against the workers on-site is condemnable. Whoever has issued such threats should be punished. I inquired with local people. There is no involvement of locals in issuing threats,” he said .

Shrestha said since provincial assembly lawmaker Rajesh Shakya himself is overseeing the renovation work, he must be aware of any such threats and why they are being issued. “It is unfortunate that UNESCO is forced to withdraw from the renovation of these important cultural heritages,” he further said.

Restoration work commenced on-site on 10 December 2018. After the work was placed on hold because of some issues raised by local people, UNESCO arranged a series of meetings with members of the local community, the Ministry of Culture Tourism and Civil Aviation, Nepal Reconstruction Authority, the Department of Archaeology and Province 3 Assembly Member Rajesh Shakya. The work resumed on 15 May 2019.

However, a few days later, threats were made by some locals against the restoration workers on-site. UNESCO therefore decided that the project had to be closed. “All documentation for the restoration work has been handed over to the care of the Department of Archaeology for completion according to international standards required for World Heritage Sites,” said a press statement issued by the UNESCO Office.

Kathmandu given year to avoid heritage danger listing

The World Heritage Committee meeting underway in Baku, Azerbaijan has decided not to include Kathmandu Valley in the World Heritage in Danger List. According to UNESCO, Nepal has been given one more year for improvement so that it does not have to put Kathmandu Valley's World Heritage Sites in the Danger List.

The meeting had expressed serious concern over the stage of progress in the rehabilitation of Kathmandu Valley's heritage. Although discussions had taken place at the meeting to put Kathmandu in the list, countries like China and Brazil stood against the proposal. 

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