Heritage rebuilding on course

- GAURAV THAPA, Kathmandu

Jan 18, 2016- With the symbolic inauguration of the reconstruction campaign by the President on Saturday, rebuilding works of damaged heritage sites are also set to gain momentum, more than eight months after the devastating earthquake and its aftershocks hit the country.

“Reconstruction of 115 heritage sites across the country will begin this year,” said Bhesh Narayan Dahal, director general of the Department of Archaeology (DoA). “We have been allocated a total budget of Rs780 million for the purpose this fiscal year.”

According to the department, a total of 754 historical, cultural and religious monuments in 20 districts were damaged by the Great Earthquake and its aftershocks. Among them, 133 have been destroyed, while 621 sustained a varied degrees of damage. According to the Post Disaster Needs Assessment report prepared by the National Planning Commission, an estimated Rs20.56 billion will be required to rebuild the damaged monuments.
The delay in formation of the National Reconstruction Authority had limited the DoA to carrying out survey and excavation works. But after the appointment of its CEO last month, the reconstruction process has picked up pace. 
The department has already called tenders for rebuilding 19 monuments, Dahal said, adding tenders for the remaining monuments would be called soon. “Of the 115 sites chosen for this year, 43 will be multi-year projects,” he said.
Out of Rs74 billion allocated for the National Reconstruction Fund by the government in this year’s budget, Rs2 billion will be spent on the reconstruction of archaeological structures. The budget also envisions a separate Heritage Fund for which contributions will be collected from Nepalis around the world through ‘Our Heritage-Our Responsibility’ campaign. On top of the reconstruction fund, an additional Rs17 billion has been allocated for general rehabilitation and reconstruction of damaged structures.
According to Dahal, the temples of Vajrayogini and Khadgayogini in Sankhu; Dashavatar and Bansagopal in Hanumandhoka; Taleju in Patan, Janga Hiranya in Tripureshwor; Bhimsen in Pharping; Anantapur at Swayambhu and Gujeshwori in the Pashupati area are among the sites that will be rebuilt this year.
All of Valley’s seven sites which were included on the World Heritage List in 1979 for their archaeological, historical, cultural and religious significance–Swayambhunath Stupa, Changu Narayan Mandir, Boudhanath Stupa, Pashupatinath Mandir and the Durbar Squares of Hanumandhoka, Patan and Bhaktapur--have also sustained damage in the earthquake.
The Kathmandu Valley escaped being put on Unesco’s List of World Heritage in Danger during the World Heritage Committee’s review meeting held in Germany last year. The committee has given Nepal one year to take correctional action before another review meeting. The status of monuments and delay in reconstruction works pose a serious threat that Kathmandu might be taken off the heritage list.
The DoA is also adding technical manpower--40 architects, 10 civil engineers, 15 overseers and three archaeologists—within a month for its reconstruction efforts, Dahal said.

Published: 18-01-2016 08:32

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