Elected officials demand road be opened—against court order

  • Supreme Court orders the Tilganga-Tamaraganga road section remain closed, as it is part of a UN heritage site and must be protected
- ANUP OJHA, Kathmandu

May 16, 2019-

Elected representatives—a mayor, a provincial assembly member and a member of the House of Representatives—on Wednesday gathered around four dozen locals to protest against the Pashupati Area Development Trust’s plan to close the Tilganga-Tamaraganga road section.

Kageshwori Manohara Municipality Mayor Krishna Thapa, Province 3 Provincial Assembly member Rameshwor Phuyal from Nepal Communist Party, and Nepal Communist Party Member of Parliament Krishna Rai, backed by some locals, protested the Trust’s move by saying that the road section must remain open.

The road along the Kageshwori Monohara Municipality passes through the historic Sleshmantak forest in the Pashupati area. And conservationists have expressed serious concern over elected representatives' demand to keep the road open, fearing damage to the area if the road section were to operate.

The Pashupati Area Development Trust on May 13 had started building a wall to block vehicular movement along the road after receiving widespread criticism from environmentalists, locals and cultural conservationists, for the road’s operating was causing soil erosion, risking damage to the historic Vishwarup Temple and disturbing the natural habitat of the Sleshmantak forest in Pashupatinath.  

The 675-metre road section--which the Supreme Court had ordered authorities to close three years ago--is built inside the periphery of a UNESCO world heritage site, which means that such sites need to maintain their historical aesthetic in order to continue being listed as a heritage site.

The UNESCO headquarters on May 11, 2012, had sent a letter to the Nepal government, the Department of Archeology and the Pashupati Area Development Trust to close the road section, citing its impact on the world heritage site.

But elected representatives are questioning directives from all agencies. “This road was opened a decade ago. Why is it being closed now?” questioned Mayor Thapa. “The Trust must give us an alternative. Local’s won’t agree if the Trust permanently closes this road section.”

Rai echoed Thapa. “People have been using this road section for a long time and now the Trust has closed it. It’s unfair,” said Rai. When asked about the area’s significance, of it being listed as a UN heritage site, Rai retorted: “Yes, we know UNESCO and all!”

Conservationists, however, vented their ire against the elected representatives saying authorities cannot disobey the court’s order and should show seriousness in preserving the centuries-old heritage site.

“If they do not follow the Supreme Court’s order, we will lodge a contempt of court case against them,” Sanjay Adhikari, a lawyer and cultural activist.  

The Pashupati Area Development Trust had indeed opened the road section in 2007 to manage traffic congestion between Tilganga and Chabahil. But with the road’s opening, the historic Sleshmantak jungle soon became a dumping site and trees in the forest were felled, locals say. Because of this felling of trees, numerous incidents of landslide were also reported along the Tilganga-Tamaraganga road section.

Then in 2014, advocate Tulshi Sinkhada filed a writ at the Supreme Court demanding that the road be closed. Two years later, Supreme Court judges Aananda Mohan Bhattarai and Anil Kumar Sinha ordered authorities to close the road section.

Amidst these conflicts, another issue pertaining to the road stretch, arose, regarding the illegal mining of sand and soil on the eastern and northern parts of the Vishwarup Temple.

“These local representatives are just supporting the land mafia,” said Ganapati Lal Shrestha, a youth heritage conservationist. “If you visit the road section, only tipper trucks and water tankers can be seen.”

“Our work is to preserve the UNESCO world heritage site and follow the court’s verdict, but I have been getting threats from local dons or mafia. They are pressing me to open this road section,” said Pradeep Dhakal, member secretary of the Trust.

Published: 16-05-2019 07:46

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