EDITORIAL: Standing tall

From historical point of view, old flavours should come from a reconstructed Dharahara, not only physically but emotionally too

Two years is well past the devastating earthquakes of April 2015, and the agencies concerned for the reconstruction of Dharahara, a historic tower flattened by the earthquake in the heart of the capital city, are still bickering over what kind of design should be adopted for its reconstruction.

This is in itself a sign of coming delays in its reconstruction and the kind of mentality that grips us. It also brings into focus what they have been doing so far, still unable to sort out the issue.

The Department of Archaeology (DoA) and Nepal Telecom (NT) hold different views.

DoA forwarded its design two months ago, to which NT, which has been authorized to rebuild Dharahara, has asked DoA to add more features for the ‘viable operation’ of this monument.

The reconstruction seems to have been guided more by commercial considerations than by historicity. DoA has proposed using 23 ropanis of land in the vicinity of the original site of Dharahara, including the land of the General Post Office and the Taksar Department of the Nepal Rastra Bank.

The total cost of the project is estimated to be Rs.3.67 billion but NT says it could shoot to Rs. 6 billion.

According to DoA, what remains of Dharahara should be preserved as a memorial for those who were killed there and a new 245-foot, 11-storey building called Dharahara, should be built at the site where the General Post Office is now located, using modern construction materials and equipment, making its outside resemble the original Dharahara.

To this, NT wants to add more features in the vicinity, such as a fountain, space for cultural music and a modern garden. NT argues that the internal rate of return on the investment on building Dharahara should be at least 10 percent to cover its operating cost and that the design submitted by DoA can generate only two percent.

What does restoration mean? It means bringing back the old structure in all important aspects, using similar types of construction materials in its inside as well as outside. It also means erecting a new structure at the same site or closest to it if the ravaged structure is to serve as a monument.

But the design submitted by DoA does not seek to do that. First it seeks to fool the people by giving an illusion of Dharahara from outside and inside it would be replete with all things modern. And its distance from the original site would be several hundred metres from the original site.

From historical and archaeological point of view, old flavours should come from a reconstructed Dharahara, not only physically but emotionally too, and which people can identify with the original structure.

Instead of erecting a commercial complex, it would be better not to rebuild it at all, just preserving the stub that there is. Its vicinity should be able to recapture the old period as far as possible or something worthwhile but not anything that might spoil the historical flavours and dignity of Dharahara.

With modern technology even a very tall building can be erected within months. But that is not the point that should prevail in the reconstruction of Dharahara.

Paddy plantation

There has been a shortfall of paddy plantation in the eastern region and only 39.60 per cent  of paddy have been planted there this year.

This is attributed to the weak monsoon there as a result of which there was inadequate rainfall to meet the needs in order to grow paddy. As a result, paddy plantation has failed to keep up pace with the demand in most areas of the region.

Farmers complain that they lack irrigation facilities, and they have to depend on rainwater in order to cultivate their crops. Moreover, much of the paddy planted there has now started to wilt due to the lack of rainfall.

It is a pity to see many paddy fields lying barren and the authorities seem to be least bothered about the livelihood of peasants in the area. There is around 496,400 hectares of land for cultivation of paddy in the eastern region. There are facilities for irrigation on only 267,000 hectares of land.

Therefore, the need of the hour is to provide the paddy fields with irrigation facilities so that more rice could be grown and we need not depend too much on the weather.

Meanwhile, farmers are waiting for the rains to plant their paddy.