PM Oli lays base for Dharahara amid cultural activists’ protests

- Anup Ojha, Sanjaya Lama, Kathmandu

Dec 28, 2018-

Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli on Thursday laid the foundation stone for the reconstruction of Dharahara in Kathmandu amid protests from cultural activists. The 18th-century monument was destroyed in the devastating 2015 earthquake.

After laying the foundation stone, Oli said that the Dharahara will be rebuilt a way that will reflect “traditional architecture with a touch of modernity” and that it will be appreciated by the people. He claimed the soon-to-be reconstructed iconic tower will be able to resist earthquakes of any magnitude.

He said that the new tower will also have two elevators which will facilitate elderly people to reach the top of the tower.

At the event, tensions were high and police rounded up five cultural activists—Yadav Lal Kayastha, Gita Sikharakar, Sushma Sikharakar, Manish Shrestha, Suraj Maharjan—who were about to stage a protest against the plan to reconstruct the 18th-century monument with modern concrete structures. Police even arrested pedestrians Dal Bahadur Thapa, Bed Prasad Gautam, Leela Koirala, and Ram Krishna Maharjan, who said they were only walking past the reconstruction site.

Cultural experts said the cultural importance of historic Sundhara will be lost if Dharahara is constructed with concrete structures. They said the proposed structure plan will also block the road the chariot traditionally takes during Indra Jatra.

“A modern structure will defile the originality of the monument,” Sushma Sikharakar said. “We were arrested for nothing. The government is trying to destroy our heritage. Tourists come to visit the place to observe the historical monument, not to view a modern structure that doesn’t reflect local culture.” The arrestees were detained for four hours at the Mahendra Police Club.

Earlier, the Nepal Telecom had committed to rebuild the structure, but the Department of Archeology rejected the company’s plan because it had floated a proposal to construct the monument in a commercial modality. Nepal Telecom had pledged Rs 1 billion for the reconstruction.

The reconstruction of Dharahara then commenced when the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) finally took initiative. The government on September 3 awarded the reconstruction contract of Dharahara to Raman Construction Pvt Ltd and its Chinese Joint Venture Partner GIETC. According to the agreement, the contractor will complete the reconstruction within two years, if everything goes as planned.

The National Reconstruction Authority awarded the contract to the company because it was the lowest bidder for the project. Raman and its Chinese Joint Venture (JV) partner had quoted Rs3.45 billion for the reconstruction project, which is around Rs1 billion less than the next closest bid. A consortium of Kalika Construction, Rasuwa Construction, and their Chinese JV partner CICO quoted Rs4.39 billion.

A total of six companies had responded to the Expression of Interest call from the NRA to rebuild the monument. Five of them qualified for the financial evaluation, while Ashish Construction failed in the technical evaluation.

The reconstruction of Dharahara, which will now be a 22-storey high-tech structure, started on October 10, 2018. The ‘new’ Dharahara site will occupy 21267.46 square metres.

The new structure will have a mini exhibition theatre on the 18th floor, a mint museum, a ‘Green Park’, a musical fountain, vehicle parking area, a souvenir shop and a food court, among other attractions.

On February 2016, Oli had announced the campaign ‘I will build Dharahara’ with an aim to collect funds for the reconstruction of the historic monument.

He had even chipped in his one-month’s salary in the citizen’s fund. The earlier campaign, which had collected Rs 2.4 million funds, was aborted due to unspecified reasons.

The tower originally had 18-storey and was built by the first prime minister of Nepal Bhimsen Thapa in 1825, and was rebuilt later after being destroyed in the earthquake of 1934.

Published: 28-12-2018 08:15

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