UNESCO allows complex construction at heritage site

Kathmandu, January 6

Kathmandu Office of UNESCO has given a clean chit to an under-construction complex in Hanumandhoka Durbar buffer zone, stating it has no objection to construction of the structure.

This is against UNESCO’s own statement issued on December 4, 2017. “We have learnt with much concern about the  construction of commercial building and basement within the buffer area  of Hanumandhoka Durbar Square World Heritage Monument Zone and  inside the Protected Monument Zone,” UNESCO had stated in a letter addressed to builders Krishna Maharjan of Maharjan Business Associates Pvt Ltd.

UNESCO had also urged the builder to  abide by the rule of the Protected Monument Zone Bylaws and the Ancient  Monument Preservation Act and to respect the maximum height limits of  35 feet and avoid any adverse visual impact to the World Heritage  property.

However, in contradiction with its own letter, UNESCO has stated, “Firstly, the complex is outside the World Heritage property. Secondly, according to the plans, the construction will fully respect the allowable height limit and have a neoclassical style façade, matching with the surroundings, in particular with the Gaddi Baithak.”

UNESCO has also asked the authority in charge to closely monitor activities in and adjoining World Heritage property, stating, “UNESCO has no objection to the ongoing construction of the complex.”

A joint report prepared by Kathmandu Metropolitan City and Kathmandu Valley Development Authority states that the commercial complex violated the approved blueprint. It has a basement covering its entire land area of 627.98 square metres and each floors of the building are also three feet taller than the required height.

UNESCO, however, says there was already an underground basement in the building and the additional basement is being constructed to strengthen the building.

Construction  of the complex, however, has been halted following an order by Kathmandu Metropolitan City on November 24, 2017.

Locals have been staging protest demanding that the basement be filled as it posed a threat to a Malla-era treasury in the area. The treasury is guarded by army personnel all the time.

UNESCO has also sent the letter to Department of Archeology, Hanumandhoka Durbar Museum Development Committee, Kathmandu Metropolitan City, Maharjan Business Associates Pvt Ltd, Nepal National Commission for UNESCO and UNESCO World Heritage Centre, Paris informing them that the construction of the complex did not violate an law.