The Kathmandu Post, 29 Dec 2017
Following widespread criticism of the municipal office’s decision to use modern construction materials to rebuild the earthquake-damaged Rani Pokhari, the Kathmandu Metropolis City on Thursday decided to halt the rebuilding works and restore the Malla-era monument to its original form.
The announcement came after an 11-member expert committee led by former director general of the Department of Archaeology Bishnu Raj Karki was formed to study reconstruction of the pond spread over 62 ropanis without compromising on its original structure.
Defence Minister Bhimsen Das Pradhan, former KMC mayor and newly elected provincial assembly lawmaker Keshav Sthapit, and politician Ranju Darshana have been appointed advisors to the committee, which is tasked with submitting a report within 15 days.
Thursday’s meeting also decided to halt construction works until the committee submits its report. Earlier, KMC Mayor Bidhya Sundar Shakya and his Deputy Hari Prabha Khadgi were at loggerheads over the use of concrete for building a 10-foot boundary wall on the south-eastern side of the historic pond built 350 years ago by Pratap Malla.
Talking to the Post after the meeting, Shakya said there would be no dearth of resources to restore the pond’s glory by using traditional building materials. “Until I visited the project site [on Tuesday], I didn’t know concrete was used. Now the KMC will take further steps only in consultation with the Department of Archaeology, the Nepal Reconstruction Authority and other stakeholders,” said Shakya. Sailesh Shakya, a Lagan Tole local and heritage conservationist, praised the latest developments. “We take it as our win. Our persistent effort has paid off, finally,” said Shakya, calling on conservationists and local residents to watch over the activities of the metropolis.
Locals and heritage conservationists had padlocked the reconstruction site on Tuesday in protest against the KMC’s “insensitive” decision. Mayor Shakya visited the site along with half a dozen city police personnel who broke the padlock the same day.
According to the Ancient Monument Preservation Act, any historic building or heritage site built over a hundred years ago has to be preserved in its original form.
Rani Pokhari, or Nhu Pukhu (new pond) in Nepal Bhasa, was built in 1670 AD by Pratap Malla in memory of his son, to appease his wife. The rebuilding project has already fallen behind schedule due to the controversy.