Heritage enthusiasts raise alarm about Kamal Pokhari restoration projectOn Monday night, a back-hoe loader was caught digging the historic pond. Heritage conservationists protested, but Mayor Bidya Sundar Shakya was not at his office.
After widespread criticism regarding the sorry state of Rani Pokhari just two months after its restoration, the Kathmandu Metropolitan City on Monday cleaned the iconic pond overrun by algae. But on the same night, the city office was caught in another controversy.
This time it was concerning Kamal Pokhari, another heritage of Kathmandu.
Heritage lovers raised alarm after an excavator was captured in a video digging up soil from the bed of the historic pond, which has been drained out for restoration.
A small group of heritage enthusiasts, who had campaigned for the restoration of Rani Pokhari to its original form, reached Kamal Pokhari on Monday midnight to stop the excavator and alerted the city authority and the Department of Archaeology about what was transpiring there during night hours.
“The soil from the pond was about to be taken to Budhanilkantha. Some land mafias are in cahoots with the city officials and they are selling the soil from the pond,” said Ganapati Lal Shrestha, a heritage conservationist.
“The city didn’t learn a lesson from Rani Pokhari. We are not going to allow it to commit another disaster with Kamal Pokhari.”
The Kamal Pokhari restoration project is already facing criticism for disregarding the sustainable preservation aspects and plans to turn the historic pond into a recreational space.
On Tuesday, a group of heritage enthusiasts, city residents, civil society members and journalists staged a demonstration outside the office of Kathmandu Metropolitan City to protest the Kamal Pokhari incident. They had planned to hand over a memorandum of demands to Mayor Bidya Sundar Shakya but it didn’t come to pass.
Shakya was not at his office on the day.
“This is not the first time Mayor Shakya failed to show up to work whenever we are there to raise an important issue concerning our city’s heritages and their preservation,” said Alok Siddhi Tuladhar, a heritage conservationist.
The delegation eventually submitted their memorandum of demands to Deputy Mayor Hari Prabha Khadgi, who vowed to inquire about the goings-on at Kamal Pokhari restoration project site.
“I will soon visit Kamal Pokhari and find out what has been happening there,” said Khadgi.
She also assured the heritage conservationists to strongly raise the issue of Kamal Pokhari at Wednesday's municipal council meeting.
Bimal Aryal, who was part of the demonstration outside the office of Kathmandu Metropolitan City on Tuesday, blamed Mayor Shakya for “desecrating Kamal Pokhari”.
“Every citizen should stand up to such action,” he said.
When the water in Rani Pokhari was drained out dry in December 2017 , the fish in the pond were relocated to Kamal Pokhari. At the time the city authority had assured to take care of the fish.
With the Kamal Pokhari drained out for restoration, nobody knows whatever happened to the translocated fish.
The excavator was used to dig up soil from Kamal Pokhari on the same day the Department of Archeology had sent a letter to the city office, directing it to consider the cultural, historic and ecological values of the pond while restoring it.
The department had also cited the Ancient Monument Preservation Act 2013 in its letter to the city office. The Act says that structures over a hundred years old must be preserved in their original form.
“For Kamal Pokhari restoration, the Kathmandu Metropolitan City is working with the same company, World Wide Kandel KN KG JV, that had run into a controversy for the use of concrete while restoring Rani Pokhari,” said Tuladhar.
World Wide Knadel KN KG JV had used concrete structures while restoring Rani Pokhari, inviting protests from heritage conservationists. The city office had to later spend Rs 1.6 million to remove the concrete structures.
“If the city office was concerned about the company’s wrongdoing, it would not have selected a different contractor for Kamal Pokhari restoration. Clearly, there’s something fishy going on here,” Tulahdar said.