KATHMANDU, MARCH 2
The Department of Archaeology has said that it is mulling over removing shops that do not comply with the heritage rule at the UNESCO World Heritage Site around Basantapur Durbar Square area.
The DAO's initiative came in response to a letter issued by Kathmandu Metropolitan City, which had asked removal of modern shops and eateries that do not sell traditional goods and are eyesores to the beauty of the place.
Lately, a number of fancy stores, eateries and other kinds of shops that do not promote culture and heritage have opened in the area. At least eight handicraft shops in the area were forced to close in the past one year after the number of tourists in the area declined sharply. These spaces are now occupied by eateries and fancy stores.
Such shops are largely seen on the northern side of Taleju Bhawani temple and on the other side of Kathmandu Fire Brigade. These areas are under the supervision of Hanuman Dhoka Durbar Museum under the DoA.
Renting out the space to modern shops has become a regular income sources for the museum. Currently, the museum office has rented out space to at least 40 shops inside the World Heritage Site. It earns more than Rs 30 million by renting out the space every year.
The museum office, however, is least interested in monitoring the shops and protecting the cultural beauty of the area.
"Lately, the museum is managing its expenses from the money that it earns by renting out the space," Sandeep Khanal, head of Hanuman Dhoka Durbar Museum said. He further said that the office was unaware of any such letters.
DoA Spokesperson Ram Bahadur Kunwar, however, said that they asked the museum to come up with a possible solution to the problem. " We want to remove modern shops that do not reflect our culture and tradition from the site. I hope we will finally be able to do so," he added.
One of the key hurdles to removing such shops is that the shop owners have already signed a long-term lease contract with the previous government authorities. The government bodies may not have legal grounds to shut the shops.
However, many shop owners, after receiving the contract to operate traditional shops, often lease out the space to third parties who operate shops selling modern goods.
Reminding the DoA of its role, KMC has, however, asked the DoA to remove such shops within a week. KMC has said that if DoA fails to do so, KMC will have to interfere in the matter.
A version of this article appears in the print on March 3, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.