KMC mayor at odds with his deputyThe controversy surrounding the Rani Pokharai reconstruction project refuses to die down, with the latest episode now pitting Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) Mayor Bidhya Sundar Shakya against his deputy Hari Prabha Khadgi.
The controversy surrounding the Rani Pokharai reconstruction project refuses to die down, with the latest episode now pitting Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) Mayor Bidhya Sundar Shakya against his deputy Hari Prabha Khadgi.
The conflict between the two top metropolis officials was on full public display on Tuesday as the construction site was first padlocked in the presence of Deputy Mayor Khadgi, a Nepali Congress leader, only to be reopened a couple of hours later on the orders of Mayor Shakya, who won the mayoral seat on a UML ticket.
The project, which is already running behind schedule, has come under fire from conservationists and locals following the use of concrete for building a 10-foot boundary wall on the southeastern side of the historic pond.
Following widespread criticism over the use of concrete, the KMC, which is responsible for the reconstruction of the 350-year-old pond, has been on the defensive.
After inspecting the site around 10am on Tuesday, Deputy Mayor Khadgi gave orders to padlock the main gate to the pond, citing the ongoing reconstruction works have destroyed its original structure. Bhai Ram Khadgi, the chairperson of KMC Ward-28, padlocked the gate and a representative of the heritage conservation group plastered on the gate a notice that read ‘Padlock against the encroachment’.
“This is a heritage that is directly linked to our identity and is a gift from our ancestors. This has to be reconstructed maintaining its original glory,” said Khadgi.
People who gathered in front of the gate welcomed the move with a thunderous round of applause.
Tej Ratna Tamrakar, 70, a local from Indrachowk, who had accompanied Khadgi, stressed the need to preserve the monument for future generations. “I have never seen this pond dry since my childhood. I don’t know if there will be water in the pond again,” he said.
But the padlock did not last too long. About two hours later, Shakya who visited the site along with half a dozen City Police gave an order to break the padlock.
Confronted with pointed questions over the lack of coordination between the two top officials of the metropolis, Shakya retorted: “Don’t politicise the issue.”
Shakya is also under fire from conservationists and public over a plan to open coffee shop in Rani Pokhari.
“I am also a heritage lover. I have already asked technicians to bring out all the details of the design. We will consult about the issue with the Department of Archaeology (DoA), National Reconstruction Authority and other stakeholders,” said Shakya, adding, the construction agreement was signed before he took charge at the KMC.
But the DoA said that the KMC went ahead with a unilateral decision to build a concrete wall without seeking any approval from it. “The use of cement in the construction of historic monument is unlawful act. The KMC should correct it immediately,” said DoA Director General Bhesh Narayan Dahal.
As per the Ancient Monument Preservation Act, any historic building and heritage sites that are over a hundred years old have to be preserved in their original form.
Sudarshan Raj Tiwari, an architect and former dean of the Institute of Engineering (IOE), said the KMC is not taking the pond as the heritage site seriously enough.