Pashupati road being operated against Supreme Court directive

- Anup Ojha, Kathmandu

Jan 22, 2019-

The roadway alongside the Sleshmantak jungle—between Tilganga to Tamarganga—which falls under a Unesco world heritage site is currently functioning illegally, despite the Supreme Court’s order to stop access to the road. Locals, environmentalists and cultural activists had voiced concerns that the road section is causing soil erosion and disturbing the natural habitat of the historic jungle in Pashupatinath. The Supreme Court had then ordered the road be left unoperated back in 2016.  

However, officials at the Department of Archaeology say that the Pashupati Area Development Trust has, for years, disregarded the Supreme Court’s orders and have even presented a false report to the Department in relation to the operations of the road section.

The Trust had opened the 675-metre road section in 2007 to manage traffic congestion between Tilganga and Chabahil. The move was later highly criticised by locals and cultural activists. Even Unesco had asked the Trust to cut off access to the road immediately. “We asked the Trust to close the road section. The Trust told us that the road had been closed. We then sent a report to Unesco stating that the road section was closed. It was only later that we found out that the road was closed only in paper,” said Devendra Bhandari, archaeological officer at the Department of Archaeology.  

After seeing the Trust’s indifference, advocate Tulshi Sinkhada, in 2014, filed a writ at the Supreme Court. Two years later, the Supreme Court judge duo Aananda Mohan Bhattrai and Anil Kumar Sinha ordered the road section to be closed. Before the court had made the decision, it had sent a team to inspect the road section in 2016. Despite all these efforts, every day, hundreds of vehicles ply the road section, mostly tipper trucks and water tankers, threatening to damage a historic site that has deep religious, cultural and historical importance.

“Due to heavy vehicular movement, the entire ecosystem of the area is being affected. This is a great threat particularly to the Bishowrupa Temple, which is situated at the top of Sleshmantak jungle’s hill,” said Kedar Bhandari, the main priest at Pashupatinath. The Bishorupa Temple, which was badly damaged in the 2015 earthquakes, is still in a sorry state.   

Former Director General at the Archaeology Department Bishnu Raj Karki has condemned the actions of the Trust and its indifference in preserving the world heritage site. “The road section has destroyed the natural balance of this place. It seems that the government does not value the importance of Unesco’s enlistment, “said Karki.

When the Post contacted Member Secretary of the Trust Pradeep Dhakal, he said the trust has already opened a tender to block the road. “We are planning to build a wall, and obstruct vehicular movement,” said Dhakal. He however said that he cannot immediately close the road section as the road is being used by the people living in Gothatar and Jorpati.

Published: 22-01-2019 09:32

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