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.”
A version of this article appears in print on March 25, 2017 of The Himalayan Times.
KATHMANDU: Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) on Sunday revealed five photos that made it to the top-five of the 'Nepal From Your Window' photo contest. The five photos will be awarded with cash prize of Rs 10,000 each. Among the 500 approved photos listed in the contest, Samde Sherpa's Kathmandu V Read More...
KATHMANDU: Qantas Airways of Australia, one of the world's oldest airways, has brought promotional domestic flight sale during a time when the tourism industry has slumped greatly due to the effects of coronavirus pandemic. The company is bringing 350,000 discounted fares which might boost the vi Read More...
NEW DELHI/BEIJING: China began pulling back troops from along its contested border with India on Monday, Indian government sources said, following a clash between the two countries last month in which 20 Indian soldiers were killed. Troops fought for hours with rods and clubs on the night of Ju Read More...
Recent news of the court’s decision on a case of sexual violence-filled me with an immediate sense of contemplation. The judge announced a one-month jail term and a penalty of Rs 63,000 to a woman for filing a false case charging a man of rape. This verdict is one of a kind and exemplary with rega Read More...
KATHMANDU: At least seven crew members of Nepal Airlines, including three pilots, have tested positive for Coronavirus infection. Three pilots and four cabin crew members of the national flag carrier have tested positive for COVID-19. Of the total 14 crew members whose swab specimen were colle Read More...
KATHMANDU: With the confirmation of 180 new cases, Nepal’s coronavirus infection tally has reached 15,964 on Monday. Likewise, 264 recoveries in the last 24 hours have been reported by the Ministry of Health and Population, which has taken the total number of recoveries in the country to 6,811. Read More...
SHANGHAI: The central Chinese city of Wuhan, epicentre of the new coronavirus pandemic, raised its flood alert level on Monday as torrential rain and thunderstorms battered swathes of the country, including the Yangtze river on which it sits. Wuhan upgraded its emergency flood response to Level Read More...
KATHMANDU: Nepal’s Health Ministry, in its regular press briefing, shared the latest updates on coronavirus contagion from across the country, and government’s response to the health crisis. As of today, 255,728 tests through Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) method and 311,724 Rapid Diagn Read More...