Kathmandu, December 25
The dispute over the under-construction Rani Pokhari seems to be turning into a political tussle as stakeholders related to the reconstruction of the historical pond have been airing opposing views.
Deputy Mayor of Kathmandu Metropolitan City Hari Prabha Khadgi today said she would put in her best effort to stop the ongoing reconstruction of Rani Pokhari. KMC has said it would stick to its plan to complete the project with the use of modern technology.
Speaking at a programme organised by Liveable Kathmandu and Society of Nepalese Architects, Khadgi said, “I was told that reconstruction of Rani Pokhari would be carried out using traditional skills, but I realise now that it was not true. I was kept in the dark. Now I will do everything in my power to halt the work”.
Defence Minister and Member of Parliament from Kathmandu Constituency No 6 Bhimsen Das Pradhan, where the historical site lies, said, “We will not stand KMC’s monopoly and hereby ask the mayor to respect the verdict of the people.” He also called upon people to start a campaign pressing the concerned authority to immediately halt the project.
Minister Pradhan and Deputy Mayor Khadgi were elected to their respective offices from Nepali Congress. Similarly, another Member of the Parliament Gagan Kumar Thapa and the ward Chair Bhai Ram Khadgi, both of whom are also from NC, have supported the campaign.
Despite the protest, KMC does not seem to be in a mood to stop the work. Talking to THT, Spokesperson for KMC Gyanendra Karki said, “There is no logic behind the protest. These people are just an obstacle to the development process and KMC will not give in.”
Karki further said the project is being implemented after a detailed study conducted by engineers of KMC and nobody needed to create fuss about it.
Workers at the construction site were using excavators to dig the mud out and constructing the concrete wall today evening.
Even engineers and hydrologists have divided opinions on whether the reconstruction of the ancient pond should continue. Architectural engineer and cultural historian Sudarshan Raj Tiwari has been lobbying against building concrete structures at the site, arguing that doing so will reduce the historical heritage to a mere swimming pool.
Tiwari is of the opinion that use of traditional black soil and brick embankment will help restore the ancient wells inside the pond. “Rani Pokhari does not only hold the legacy of our rich culture and history but also helps maintain the underground water level. Therefore we must work to protect the pond in its traditional form,” Tiwari said.
Engineer Ananta Ram Baidya described the idea of using black clay and traditional embankment as an ‘immature, hasty decision’ made by campaigners without adequate study.
“The properties of black soil that the engineers are talking about are hard to find here. In fact, what they are talking about is black cotton soil. It is volcanic soil, which is not found in our country. Black soil is not a good recommendation for embankment construction since it is not good for the surface of the banks of the pond as structures built on it can easily collapse.
Activists and locals have been demanding that KMC scrap its plan to build an amusement park and a coffee shop and boating facility at the pond. They have asked KMC to reconstruct the pond using traditional materials and skills.
KMC officials, however, have claimed that the rebuilt pond will be able to earn revenues up to Rs 100,000 per day if constructed in the current proposed model.
A version of this article appears in print on December 26, 2017 of The Himalayan Times.