Archaeology dept halts Rani Pokhari reconstruction

Kathmandu, December 27

The Department of Archaeology today told Kathmandu Metropolitan City to immediately halt reconstruction of Rani Pokhari, claiming that KMC was not following the blueprint approved by the department.

“I told KMC officials over phone to stop construction work,” DoA Director General Bhes Narayan Dahal told THT. “Construction work was being carried out against the approved design,” Dahal said.

DoA’s official letter to KMC, however, could not be printed and delivered ‘because the printers were out of order’, according to officials.

Though DoA claimed that work being carried out at the pond was against the blueprint approved by the department, it has not disclosed the approved blue print.

The only blueprint made available by DoA has no signature or seal of the department.

A letter issued by the DoA on January 5, 2016, shows that it had asked KMC to remove food stall, amphitheatre, pavilion and pump house from the blue print. DoA, however, refused to share other documents related to reconstruction of the pond.

Divisional Engineer of DoA Sampad Ghimire said the under-construction concrete shear wall at Rani Pokhari was the foundation of the amphitheatre, which would be built later. Ghimire said KMC had proposed to build an amphitheatre with 400 seats.

Asked why DoA approved the plan to construct additional structures and use concrete to rebuild the temple inside the pond, Ghimire said, “We cannot always ask for a detailed blueprint. Sometimes, we are required to approve designs on the basis of policy-level decisions.”

Ghimire said use of concrete or modern materials were allowed in heritage sites if done discretely. “We do not have to make a fuss over the use of concrete so early. The International NARA convention on heritage conservation has given us permission to use modern materials if it is necessary to protect the heritage.” Ghimire said.

Chief of Department of Physical Development and Construction at KMC Uttar Kumar Regmi, an official responsible for drawing the blueprint, declined to comment saying he was  ill.

Sailesh Shakya, one of the leading local activists staging protest against the undergoing construction of Rani Pokhari, on the other hand, said they would go on hunger strike if their demand to scrap KMC’s reconstruction plan is not implemented. He added they would file a case against KMC and DoA at the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority on Thursday.

Dispute over Rani Pokhari reconstruction started when locals and conservationists started a protest against the construction of the pond using concrete and modern material. Some historians and archaeologists are arguing reconstruction model adopted by KMC would turn the historic pond into an amusement pool, destroying the rich legacy of Kathmandu valley civilization.