Under-construction complex endangers Malla-era treasury

Kathmandu, October 11

An under-construction business complex, built violating government criteria, close to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Basantapur Durbar Square, has hastened construction work even after local protest and government decree to stop further construction.

Maharjan Business Associates Pvt Ltd on October 3, 2016 had acquired permit from Kathmandu Metropolitan City to build the complex under a special provision required for constructing buildings in heritage sites.

As per the permit, the height of the building should not exceed 35 feet and the ceiling of every floor should not be more than 7-foot-7 tall. Likewise, the building should not have a basement. According to a report by engineers of KMC and Kathmandu Valley Development Authority, the complex already has a large basement built that spreads to almost every corner of 627.98 square meter area land. Likewise, each floor of the building exceeds the height limit by 3 feet and the complex is already 32 feet high when it is still under construction. With the proposed inclined traditional roofs, the building is set to eventually stand 42 feet tall, seven feet more higher than what has been permitted.

In a letter issued by the District Administration Office, Kathmandu September 13, 2017, the DAO has asked KVDA to take necessary measures to halt further construction of the building. KVDA has the right to dismantle illegal structures in Kathmandu.

Development Commissioner of KVDA Bhai Kaji Tiwari, however, said the commission, however, said the construction was not illegal and therefore would take any action against it. Asked about the already constructed basement and the floor height of the complex, which do not comply with parameters of the blueprint of the building, Tiwari said, “KVDA laws allow private residents to go two floors underground. If the metropolis has set the parameters in the blueprint, it should be the metropolis’ duty to look into it.  We are not the concerned body for that.” He also refused to acknowledge that a special set of rules apply for sensitive heritage sites.

Krishna Maharjan of Maharjan Business Associates Pvt Ltd said, “We have already renewed the permit from Kathmandu Metropolitan City that allows us to build a basement of the complex. So we have now every right to it.” He further said some people were deliberately acting against him. “These people don’t notice a 50 feet tall building next to us, but they keep find us as a defaulter,” Maharjan said.

The building construction has endangered an adjoining underground treasury house which dates back to the Malla dynasty. The treasury is made largely impregnable as it is guarded by army personnel manned at surveillance posts on four sides round the clock every day. If anyone wants to enter the treasury, the person needs to take a special permission from the Cabinet.

Locals and activists in the area are now worried that the basement of the complex will put the treasury at risk. A young local activist from Basantapur, Ganapati Lal Shrestha said, “The ongoing construction has created huge sinks in the area, which the constructors cover immediately. We believe that the place has become vulnerable from inside, putting the world heritage site at risk, especially the adjoining ancient treasury.”

Executive Director of Hanuman Dhoka Durbar Museum Aruna Nakarmi said, “Our concern is about the safety of the ancient treasury. We have sent several letters requesting Maharjan Business Associates, and concerned government bodies to halt the building construction and bury the basement, but no action has been taken, yet, in that direction.”

Maharjan Business Associates recently rebuilt a facility of Nepali Army.

The under-construction building site used to be a location of the Kumari shrine and Nasal God according to local people. The Nasal God which now lay outside the premises of the site was reconstructed by Maharjan Associates after a protest by locals.

Maharjan said “We value sentiments of the people, and we will restore the deity in its rightful place, but they are our private god so it’s not necessary to make a fuss about it.”

Some people in Basantpur area, who wanted not to be named, said that, though god can have private owners in their culture, no one is allowed to keep it for themselves. “We remember — there, as kids when we used to visit the Kumari temple with our grandparents — it was there, but now we don’t know where it is,” a local said.