Implementation of blueprint for Pashupati development halted amid criticismLocals have opposed the master plan saying it proposes demolishing residential houses to build other structures.
The Ministry of Culture on Sunday decided to temporarily halt the plan to implement the fourth master plan for the overall development of Pashupatinath Temple and its surrounding areas, one of the seven UNESCO Cultural Heritage Sites in Kathmandu Valley.
The move follows the criticism from the concerned stakeholders, including the residents of the areas, as the master plan has proposed demolishing some residential houses around its surrounding to build other structures for the use of pilgrims and visitors.
The board of directors of Pashupati Area Development Trust had approved the draft of the master plan in February which is due to be tabled at the Cabinet for its approval.
The ministry has formed a three-member team that include Pradeep Koirala and Kamal Bhattarai, joint secretaries at the ministry, and Damodar Gautam, director general of the Archaeological Department. The panel has been given a month to submit the report.
“A wide range of discussion was held at the ministry on Sunday over the issue,” said Gautam. “We have been entrusted with the task to study all areas to preserve the historical, archaeological and cultural importance of Pashupati before the master plan is implemented.”
According to Bhattarai, who is also the spokesperson of the ministry, the decision to temporarily halt the master plan was taken to address the grievances of the locals who have protested that the Pashupati Area Development Trust had prepared the plan without consulting with them.
“They have argued that the plan will destroy the centuries old heritage.”
We held a meeting with local representatives, political party representatives and concerned people on Sunday and decided to listen to their grievances,” he said.
Lawmaker Gagan Thapa including other political parties leaders and members of the Struggle Committee formed to protest against the proposed master plan were present at the interaction on Sunday.
It has been estimated that around Rs40 billion would be required for the implementation of the proposed master plan. As per the plan, development and physical infrastructure would take 10 years to complete.
The master plan has proposed developing Darshan Path at Pashupatinath with toilet, bathroom, locker service, restaurant, among other services.
Similarly, Pashupati Parikrama Path envisages bringing Guheshwori, Kirateshowr, Tilganga, Gaushala, Bhandarkhal, Sifal, Chabahil, Stupa, Jaybageshwori and Rudragadeswor areas together.
Minister for Culture Yogesh Kumar Bhattarai, after listening to the concerns of the locals, said that the ministry has decided to temporarily halt the implementation of the master plan to hear the grievances of the stakeholders concerned with the project. ‘But we just can't stop the development forever. We must move forward.”
According to him, there are core areas where there are human settlements and that should be removed. “As for the construction of other infrastructure and houses, the government will issue guidelines so that the importance of the heritage site is not destroyed,” he said. “If we continue to build a structure like now, Pashupati will lose its importance.”
The Pashupati area spreads over 264 hectares of land. Most of the land belonging to Pashupatinath has already turned into private land.