Activists want President to act to convert ‘Kathmandu View Tower’ into National LibraryThousands of books and historical manuscripts are at risk of damage as the Lalitpur-based National Library building has fallen into disrepair following the 2015 earthquakes.
A group of heritage activists and conservationists have submitted a memorandum to President Bidya Devi Bhandari asking her to stop the ongoing construction of the Kathmandu View Tower commercial building at the Old Bus Park near Ratnapark and develop the structure to house the National Library. They have also suggested operating the planned bus terminal at the basement of the building.
On Tuesday a dozen activists who have long been concerned over the dilapidated condition of the Lalitpur-based National Library building, which suffered damage in the 2015 earthquakes and remains unrepaired, presented the memorandum to the President on Tuesday after discussing the issue with her for an hour.
“We have appealed to the President to stop the construction of the commercial building and develop it into National Library building,” said conservationist Alok Siddhi Tuladhar, one of the petitioners who met Bhandari.
On November 11, 2015, Vice President Nanda Bahadur Pun had laid the foundation for a multi-storey Kathmandu View Tower at the Old Bus Park. The view tower was set to be constructed in three years under a public-private-partnership agreement signed between Kathmandu Metropolitan City and Jaleshwor Swachchhanda Bkoi Builders Pvt Ltd. The estimated cost of the project was Rs7 billion. However, in six years, only six storeys have been constructed.
“This is the oldest bus park of Kathmandu constructed on land donated by people for public good. We have long been protesting against constructing a commercial complex on the land. If the National Library, which is in a sorry state, is shifted here from Harihar Bhawan, this place can be converted into a learning hub,” said Ganapati Lal Shrestha, another heritage activist.
Although the initial plan was to build a 29-storey building, after the 2015 earthquakes, the Kathmandu Metropolitan City decided to downsize the building to 12 storeys. But the construction work suffered disruptions.
Initially, the Old Bus Park was shifted to the Khula Manch for six months, but the bus park continued to operate from Khula Manch for six years until last July. It was only after a long campaign titled “Occupy Tundikhel” by heritage activists that the Kathmandu Metropolitan City removed the bus park from the Khula Manch. Since July, in the absence of a bus terminal, public buses have been picking and dropping passengers on roadsides.
“We met the President because we are concerned about preserving public property. It should be used wisely,” said Sanjay Adhikari, a heritage activist and lawyer.
The view tower is being constructed on around 24 ropani [1.22 hectares] of land. As per the existing plan, the first and the second floors will be used as bus terminal and the other floors for commercial purposes—restaurants, movie theatres and seminar halls among others.
The heritage activists say setting up a public library at the heart of the Capital would be the wisest way to make use of the public property.
“Since they have already erected the structure, it would be unwise to demolish it. And since it is public land, it should not be used for commercial purposes,” said Adhikari.
Earlier, the government had decided to construct a new building for the National Library on a piece of public land used by the Tribhuvan University at Jamal. But the government on July 19, 2020, decided to abandon the plan
Harihar Bhawan, the historical building housing the National Library, suffered extensive damage in the 2015 earthquakes. Hundreds of historical documents and manuscripts up to 300 years old lay packed in sacks after the earthquake. Library officials say termite infestation in the building poses big threat to the historical documents.
When the Post contacted Ishwor Man Dangol, spokesperson of the Kathmandu Metropolitan City, to inquire about heritage activists lobbying to convert the view tower building into a library, he said the City had no idea about it.
Heritage activists say having the National Library at the Old Bus Park site will benefit thousands of students as dozens of schools and colleges including the Durbar High School, Padmodaya School, Ratna Rajya Campus, Bishwa Bhasa Campus, Nepal Law College, and Tri Chandra College are located in the area.
“We request the President to consider all these positive aspects and take the guardianship to hand over the existing building to the national library by paying due compensation to the contractor,” reads the memorandum.