Restored Gaddi Baithak sparks controversy

  • Conservationists point out design alterations
- SANJEEV GIRI, Kathmandu

Jun 26, 2018-

Restoration of the Gaddi Baithak palace, one of the focal attractions of the Kathmandu Durbar Square Unesco World Heritage Site, has sparked a controversy over visible changes on its main façade. Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli is set to inaugurate the historic palace, which was severely impacted by the 2015 earthquake, on Wednesday.

Built in 1908 AD by Rana Prime Minister Chandra Shumsher, the Gaddi Baithak followed the European architectural design and prominently featured a pattern similar to the British flag on the balcony which is used by dignitaries including the then royal family during festivals such as Kumari Jatra. The structure has been conspicuously altered in the retrofitted structure, activists say. The structure retrofitted by Miyamoto Global Disaster Relief is funded by the US Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation under supervision of the Department of Archaeology (DoA). The restoration process, which started in October 2017, is the first for a major heritage project to complete within the stipulated time.

According to Suraj Maharjan, an activist associated with SaveNepaValley movement, the distinctive readjustment on the main façade was disquieting even if minor alterations in course of rebuilding a historic monument are acceptable. “Not just this, use of cement will impact the monument in the long run,” Maharjan said. He complained that activists were not allowed to observe the rebuilding process.

DoA Director General Bhesh Narayan Dahal said the retrofitting process adhered to international practices.

“The historic palace has been retrofitted using local raw materials and retaining its aesthetic features,” Dahal told the Post. He admitted to the use of cement “in some portions”, which reportedly was in line with the heritage site rebuilding manual. He added that retrofitting of Singha Durbar would also be carried out taking cues from the Gaddi Baithak rebuilding process.

Asked about the alterations on the main façade, Dahal claimed that it had not made much difference in the monument’s overall structure. “We were committed to completing the historic monument on time and this has happened,” Dahal said, adding that such “minor” issues should not be used to hurt relations between two countries.

Published: 26-06-2018 07:11

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