Kathmandu, August 8
After nearly four-and-half years of the 2015 earthquakes, about 60 per cent of total 891 heritage sites and buildings that were destroyed or had suffered damage await reconstruction across disaster-hit districts in the country.
While majority of monuments await reconstruction, the government has already spent Rs 2.126 billion to reconstruct 380 heritage sites. Majority of reconstructed sites are minor projects that had suffered partial damage compared to sites that still await reconstruction. Reconstruction of major sites is being undertaken with the support of foreign governments and agencies on their own expenses. The Department of Archaeology with the financial assistance from National Reconstruction Authority is looking after reconstruction of heritage sites. The NRA has offered additional Rs 5.10 billion for reconstruction of remaining heritage sites for the current fiscal. As the large amount of the pledged money is provided by foreign donor agencies and governments, the DoA needs to complete the tasks on time to claim the money.
Director General Damodar Gautam of DoA said, “Unlike previous years when we received money directly from the NRA, majority of the pledged amount will be provided to the NRA only after rebuilding is completed. So, we also get the money after the completion of reconstruction project.” Gautam expressed confidence over completing reconstruction within the stipulated time.Given the past trend of reconstruction process, it is unlikely that remaining heritages will be rebuilt on time to claim the money. The DoA has around two years left to meet the deadline to complete reconstruction of all heritage sites inside the country, according to Gautam. DG Gautam added they would need additional Rs 3.50 billion in the next fiscal to complete the reconstruction works.
The government had earlier said a total of 753 heritage sites in 14 most-affected districts required reconstruction. It later added 138 heritages sites in the list from additional 17 earthquake-hit districts. Gautam said reconstruction of heritage sites was tedious and required more resources compared to construction of modern buildings. “We have to keep in mind the architectural complexities of heritage buildings. Besides, they need to fully comply with archaeological principles, which increases time duration and expenditure.”
He added that lack of proper timber, skilled manpower and appropriate construction materials such as traditional bricks, mortar and lime-powder prolonged the reconstruction process.
Out of 380 restored heritage sites, 96 fall under the UNESCO World Heritage Sites and 284 are in the 14 districts that were worst hit by the quakes.
Gaddhi Baithak, Krishna Mandir and Pratap Malla’s statue are important archaeological sites at Basantapur area, Siddhilaxmi temple of Bhaktapur Durbar Square, main temple of Changu Narayan temple at Changu Narayan and Pratappur, Anantapur at Swoyambhu are some of the important heritage monuments reconstructed so far.
A version of this article appears in print on August 09, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.