Nepal | September 24, 2020

Lowest bidders a major threat

Agence France Presse
Share Now:
Basantpur Durbar Square

Workers renovating a heritage site at Basantpur Durbar Square in Kathmandu on February 8, 2017. Photo: AFP

Kathmandu, March 24

Caretaker Deepak Shrestha padlocked the quake-ravaged remains of the Trailokya Mohan Narayan temple in Kathmandu to keep out the contractors who are meant to be rebuilding it.

The 17th century monument’s three-tiered pagoda completely collapsed in a 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit the country in April 2015, leaving the main statue standing exposed on a high plinth.

Shrestha, whose family has looked after the Hindu temple for generations, is now on a mission to protect it from a government system that grants contracts to rebuild the quake-damaged heritage sites to the lowest bidder.

“We had our doubts about the contractors but it was confirmed when they started digging the foundations haphazardly, disregarding the community’s involvement and our sacred rituals,” Shrestha, 56, told AFP. “We don’t believe the cheapest contractors will rebuild our temple sincerely. We demand that the government dismiss such a system.”

The temple was among more than 700 heritage sites damaged in the disaster which killed nearly 9,000 people and destroyed half a million homes.

Residents cannot tolerate an attack on our heritage

Nepal’s laws state that construction contracts valued at more than Rs 5 lakh must be granted through a tender process to the lowest bidder — and the same rules govern the restoration of ancient temples and buildings.

The system has raised alarm over the quality and techniques being used to rebuild historical sites — with experts saying the Kathmandu Valley’s status as a UNESCO World Heritage site could be under threat. “The lowest bidder is not necessarily the best,” Christian Manhart, head of UNESCO in Nepal, told AFP.

“There are strong chances that it can be in the world heritage in danger (list),” he added. When the UNESCO World Heritage committee met in July last year, it narrowly avoided putting the Kathmandu Valley on its “List of World Heritage in Danger”, but warned it could be added in 2017 if progress was not made.

The government estimates that rebuilding the centuries-old temples and monuments damaged by the quake will cost over $300 million.

Several countries who have pledged support to help Nepal rebuild its cultural heritage have also expressed concerns about the tender process and the slow pace of work.

Bhesh Narayan Dahal, chief of Nepal’s archaeology department, said he was aware of concerns about the construction contract system and is hopeful the government will respond.

“The demands of local communities are justified… but we are helpless, we cannot work beyond the limits of the government’s laws, acts and rules,” Dahal said.

In deeply religious Nepal, where temples and heritage sites are an integral part of people’s lives, other communities are now demanding that the government process be scrapped and they be allowed to take lead in rebuilding. However, dozens of contracts to rebuild cultural monuments have already been granted.

Experts also worry that contractors who lack experience of working on heritage projects won’t have the contacts to hire traditional wood carvers, stone sculptors and metal workers.

Birendra Bhakta Shrestha, who is leading a campaign to rebuild Kathmandu’s Kashtamandap temple with community involvement, said, “Lowest bidders cannot maintain quality… Residents of Kathmandu can tolerate anything, but cannot tolerate an attack on our heritage.”

READ ALSO:


A version of this article appears in print on March 25, 2017 of The Himalayan Times.


Follow The Himalayan Times on Twitter and Facebook

Recommended Stories:

More from The Himalayan Times:

As US surpasses 200,000 COVID-19 deaths, Wisconsin sounds alarm over surges in cases

NEW YORK: Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Tuesday declared a new public health emergency and extended a face mask mandate into November to fight a coronavirus flareup in his state, as the number of people who have died across the United States since the pandemic began passed 200,000. In-pers Read More...

Govt urged to implement apex court’s order on jailbirds

SC order aims to avoid crowds in prisons KATHMANDU, SEPTEMBER 22 The National Human Rights Commission has urged the government to implement provisions stipulated in the Criminal Offences (Determination and Execution of Sentence) Act-2017, for improvement of prison conditions. The NHRC made th Read More...

Code of conduct vital in journalism: Prez

KATHMANDU, SEPTEMBER 22 President Bidhya Devi Bhandari has called for journalists to fully abide by the code of conduct for consolidation of democracy. Addressing the 51st anniversary of the Press Council Nepal in Shital Niwas here today, the head of the state underscored the need of compl Read More...

Probe into prisoner’s death sought

KATHMANDU, SEPTEMBER 22 Kin of a prisoner, who allegedly died of COVID-19 while undergoing treatment at Bir Hospital, have demanded investigation into the death. Ram Lakhan Jaiwal, 63, of Siddhartha Municipality-5, Rupandehi died at the hospital on Saturday. He had been serving sentence in the Read More...

Attempts to dismiss rape exposed, ward chair chased off

BARA, SEPTEMBER 22 There are reports of attempts to cover up a rape incident in Subarna Rural Municipality, Bara. What is worse, an elected local representative is learnt to have been involved in such attempts. On Friday evening, a 12-year-old girl was raped in Auraiya in Subarna Rural Municip Read More...

Schools in Byas moot possibility of physical classes

DAMAULI, SEPTEMBER 22 Byas Municipality today held a meeting with head teachers and principals of community and private schools to find a way for reopening schools that have been shut for a long time due to COVID-19. The municipality held a meeting to discuss the possibility of opening sch Read More...

126 lost lives in Gandaki landslides, floods this monsoon

POKHARA, SEPTEMBER 22 As many as 126 people lost their lives to natural disasters such as floods and landslides in Gandaki Province this monsoon. Gandaki Province Minister of Internal Affairs and Law Hari Bahadur Chuman said that most of the casualties happened in Myagdi and Baglung districts. Read More...

Probe panel recommends action against three cops

DHANGADI, SEPTEMBER 22 A probe committee formed to investigate the death of Amar Bahadur Chand, who died in Kailali Police Custody, has recommended action against three police personnel. Chand had died in the toilet of Bahuliya Border Police Post on August 12. The probe committee led by SP Raj Read More...