Conservationists voice concerns over municipal move to obstruct measures to preserve quake-hit Bagh Durbar

  • Despite the Supreme Court’s order on March 19 to preserve the Rana-era palace, the monument remains exposed to monsoon rains
- ANUP OJHA, Kathmandu

Jun 7, 2019-

Heritage conservationists, culture experts and locals have criticised the Kathmandu Metropolitan City for its move to obstruct the work of laying tarpaulin sheets on Bagh Durbar which was damaged in the 2015 earthquake. The tarpaulin sheets were being laid to protect the historic Rana-era palace from natural elements.

The Supreme Court, on March 19, had ordered the Department of Archaeology among other government stakeholders to protect the palace from exposure to weather conditions.

Following the court verdict, the department on April 29 had assigned Raj Construction to lay tarpaulin sheets on the roof of the damaged durbar.

“We had assigned Raj Construction to cover the roof of the durbar with tarpaulin sheets, but the metropolis didn’t let the contractor to complete the work,” said Sampat Ghimire, senior engineer at the department.

“We wrote to the metropolis, but it replied saying that it would carry out the task itself.”

The pre-monsoon shower has already started to make its presence felt in Kathmandu but the metropolis has yet to start work on the palace.

“This is going to further damage the historic monument. The metropolis has no intentions to restore the durbar, it instead wants to demolish the entire structure and build a new one. This way the officials are in for a big commission,” said Ganapati Lal Shrestha, a heritage activist who has long been advocating for the protection of Bagh Durbar.

The top court had issued an order in response to a writ filed in October last year. When the Post contacted spokesperson for the metropolis, Ishwor Man Dangol, he said that he was unaware of the metropolis obstructing work at the palace.

“We can’t go against the Supreme Court’s order; we will be coordinating with the Department of Archaeology and laying tarpaulin sheets on the roof soon,” said Dangol.

The construction company, however, released a statement on May 8, saying that senior officials at the Mayor’s office Krishna Raj Bista, Ganesh Prasad Thapaliya, Hari Bahadur Kunar, chief Raj Panday and Gyanendra Karki had obstructed the task of laying tarpaulin and also accused the officials of manhandling the workers.

Venting his frustration at the metropolis’ move, Sudarshan Raj Tiwari, an architect and former dean of the Institute of Engineering, termed it ‘destructive.’

“This is a legacy of late Bhimsen Thapa. The metropolis should take active measures to preserve this neoclassical building,” said Tiwari. “I can’t believe that the metropolis is neglecting the Supreme Court’s order and is devoted to destroying the durbar.”

The apex court on March 19 with a division bench of Justice Anil Kumar Sinha and Sapana Malla Pradhan had ordered the government and stakeholders to initiate a process within 15 days to decide on the methods and mechanisms to conserve the palace.

On the same date, the judges had also ordered the department, metropolis and National Reconstruction Authority, archaeologists, historians, structure experts, Vastu consultants and architects, to work together and submit a report within three months on ways to conserve the palace. However, no significant progress seem to have been made with less than two weeks left for the report submission deadline.

When the Post contacted Ram Bahadur Kunwar, spokesperson for the department, regarding the progress of the report he said that the department has completed its homework. “We have sent a letter to the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, and the ministry is working on it,” said Kunwar.

Published: 07-06-2019 09:45

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