Valley authority under fire for attempting to erect lamp post at RatnaparkHeritage activists vandalised the plinth of the post saying it stands in the way of the annual Seto Machhindranath chariot procession.
On Tuesday morning, locals and heritage activists came across a freshly-erected concrete plinth on the pavement at Ratnapark on the southeastern corner of the Metropolitan Police Office, Ranipokhari.
They were surprised to see the concrete stump erected right in the middle of the pavement because it would block the annual Seto Machhindranath Chariot procession, which passes through the same route.
Then they started inquiring who could have erected it. They contacted the local bodies including the local ward-28 office, the Kathmandu Metropolitan City, the Guthi Corporation and the Department of Archaeology, and even the police, but none of them had any clue about the plinth, which is fitted with bolts and electrical wiring, to support some kind of pole.
“For the entire day, the structure remained a mystery for us,” said Ganapati Lal Shrestha, a heritage activist.
Shrestha then shot a video featuring the new stump along with a mystified local and uploaded it on Facebook, where the anonymous authority responsible for the construction was roundly criticised.
Shrestha and the group continued their investigation and learnt that the stump was constructed by the Kathmandu Valley Development Authority (KVDA), a government agency under the Ministry of Urban Development. It turned out that the Authority had unilaterally constructed the structure without consulting anyone.
Rajeev Shrestha, an engineer with the Authority, said the plinth was constructed to erect a mast light.
“We didn’t know that this was the route for the Seto Machindranath chariot procession,” Shrestha said. “We will relocate the plinth.”
The Authority might have backtracked but conservationists and locals are concerned over the Authority’s unilateral decision.
Nil Kaji Shakya, former chair of the City’s ward 25 and coordinator of the Seto Machhindranath Chariot Committee, said it was a blunder by the Kathmandu Valley Development Authority to construct the structure without informing the authorities tasked with monitoring the area.
“This is the oldest route of the chariot procession, and there is no alternative,” Shakya said. “What the authority did is an attack on our culture.”
The Seto Machhindranath Jatra is a several days long chariot procession honouring the deity of good harvest and prosperity. Hundreds of people pull the chariot through Durbarmarg, Ratnapark, Ason, Indra Chowk and Lagan Tole over several days.
Devendra Maharjan, a member of the City’s ward 28, echoed Shakya. “Before constructing such a structure, the Kathmandu Valley Development Authority should have consulted us,” Maharjan said. “What they have done has hurt the sentiments of locals.”
On Wednesday afternoon, ward 28 issued a notice to dismantle the structure. Locals and heritage activists sawed the bolts and vandalised the plinth. Later in the day, the authority said it would remove the plinth.
This is not the first time the authorities have come under fire for haphazard constructions.
In 2016, the Kathmandu Metropolitan City’s decision to pave the bed of the Rani Pokhari pond and build concrete structures around the historical pond had met with widespread criticism. Similarly, in the second week of March this year, the Kathmandu Metropolitan City was criticised for erecting eight concrete stumps for flag posts at the Kathmandu Durbar Square. The stumps were later demolished by locals and heritage activists.
“Had we not raised our voices, they would have obstructed the route of the chariot procession,” Shrestha, the heritage activist, said. “I just wonder how stupid can the authorities be?”