Concrete wall around Rani Pokhari draws flak

- Anup Ojha, Kathmandu

Dec 20, 2017-A year after coming under fire for allowing the use of concrete in the reconstruction of Bal Gopaleshwor Temple at Rani Pokhari, the Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) is in the eye of another storm.

In yet another instance of blatant disregard of widely followed norms in conservation of ancient monuments, the metropolis is found using concrete for building a 10-foot boundary wall on the southeastern side of the historic pond, drawing criticism from heritage conservationists and locals.

The government ordered the KMC to hand over the reconstruction project to the Department of Archaeology (DoA) last year, following widespread criticism from conservation experts and Unesco for using concrete pillars in the construction of the temple.

As per the Ancient Monument Preservation Act, any historic buildings and heritage sites that are over a hundred years old have to be preserved in their original form.   

The KMC’s responsibility has since been limited to the reconstruction works on 

the historic pond and beautification of the outer infrastructure. 

“The pond is also a part of this historic monument. But it was an insensitive decision on part of the metropolis to use concrete to build the wall around it. It seems the KMC is building the wall without studying the original structure of the pond,” said Sudarshan Raj Tiwari, an architect and former dean of the Institute of Engineering, Pulchowk. Tiwari, among other heritage conservationists, was at the KMC office on Monday to submit a complaint letter to Mayor Bidya Sundar Shakya. 

Conservatisms say, the old ponds were constructed laying kalimati (black soil) on the ground level and built walls with stone and mud, using the mixture of brick dust, lime and caramel. “If you look at other historic ponds in the Valley—Kamal Pokhari, Pimbahaa Pukhu [pond] in Lalitpur and Siddhi Pokhari in Bhaktapur, they have been reconstructed in a traditional way. Why the metropolis is using cement to build the wall at the pond is beyond our comprehension,” said Alok Siddhi Tuladhar, a heritage conservationist. 

Uttar Kumar Regmi, chief of the department of Urban Infrastructure Development at the KMC, however, maintained that they were building the structure following a plan that was approved by the KMC board during the Saarc Summit held here in 2014. 

“The board decided to operate the fountain in the pond, and nobody raised the issue at the time. Now, we are on the verge of completing the first phase of the project and again we are getting complaints,” said Regmi, claiming that the structure that “we know today is not the original structure”. 

Ranju Darshana, who competed with Shakya in the mayoral race, was also at the programme to press the mayor. “The metropolis should stop activities that are against the preservation of our heritage site,” she said. 

Receiving the memorandum seeking correction to the KMC’s move, Mayor Shakya assured the delegation that he would hold a discussion on the issue in detail. 

“I am not aware of this fact [use of cement], as there are so many reconstruction works going on in the metropolis,” he said.

Rani Pokhari, or Nhu Pukhu (new pond) in Nepal Bhasa, was built in 1670 AD by King Pratap Malla in memory of his son, to appease his wife. 

President Bidya Devi Bhandari had laid the foundation stone for the reconstruction of the pond, while launching the national reconstruction campaign for rebuilding on January 16 last year. However, the reconstruction works have been far from smooth even two years after the devastating earthquake.

Published: 20-12-2017 07:54

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