Reconstruction chipping away Bhaktapur's heritage

Kathmandu, January 14

With the reconstruction process after the 2015 earthquakes under way, many houses in Bhaktapur have been built in Reinforced Concrete Construction design, raising concerns over the loss of its traditional heritage.

During an interaction programme 'Concern over Constructing Secure Homes' held on the occasion of the 19th Earthquake Safety Day today at Bhaktapur, structural engineer Ganesh Ram Nhemafuki claimed that houses built in traditional styles could also be earthquake-resistant.

He said, "Besides safety, preservation of ancient art, architecture, and culture must also be prioritised." However, the municipality has not allowed reconstruction of houses in the traditional style.

Nhemafuki claimed that lack of human and other resources was the reason behind why people were opting for RCC designs over traditional designs. "The government grant is not sufficient to construct earthquake-resistant traditional houses. The government is also enforcing a standard code to build houses, which has led to the loss of heritage," said Rajendra Hada, a civil engineer from Kathmandu University.

"The reason old houses in Bhaktapur haven't been able to withstand the earthquakes is lack of maintenance," claimed Hada.

Local teacher at Basu Higher Secondary School Bal Mukunda Basukala said people have not been able to construct traditional style houses because of a lack of resources. "The price of wood has gone very high after the quake. If the government could provide wood at subsidised rates, locals may be able to construct their houses in traditional style," he said.

Rajendra Phoju, president of Engineers Society, said there wasn't enough research and study done on the traditional design. "If traditional architecture and construction method were researched on, taught in schools and universities, engineers may be able to scientifically build houses in traditional style," he said.