KATHMANDU, Dec 16: Experts have said that the reconstruction and renovation of heritage sites by foreign governments has been taking time as they lack proper and detailed knowledge about Nepal's arts, culture and heritage.
Foreigners can't make proper decision in time and handle the reconstruction or renovation work of the monuments that were built using local technology and materials centuries ago, according to conservation architect Sudarsan Raj Tiwari, who is a former dean of the Institute of Engineering and the Department of Architecture of Tribhuvan University.
It's been almost 15 months since the Department of Archaeology (DoA) handed over the renovation task of Nautale Durbar, which is located on the premises of Kathmandu Durbar Square, to the government of China. Both sides signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on September 11 last year to carry out the renovation task of the historical palace that was badly damaged during the devastating earthquakes last year. Mainly, the upper parts of the nine-storey historical palace had collapsed during the earthquakes.
Three months later, the government signed another MoU with the Sri Lankan government for reconstruction of the historic Rato Machhindranath Temple at Bungmati, Lalitpur and Anandakuti Mahavihara at Swayambhu area of Kathmandu.
But the Chinese government is yet to begin field work to renovate the Nautale Durbar.
According to Ram Bahadur Kunwar, spokesperson at the DoA, reconstruction works of Machhindranath and Anandakuti have started and they are now building the foundation level.
“A Chinese team has been conducting survey to study the condition of the historic palace. They want to assess the impact caused by the quakes which is necessary before starting renovation work,” he said.
However, Kunwar is not sure when the Chinese team will start the renovation work at the Nautale Durbar. “Hopefully, they will start the renovation work of Nautale Durbar after about two months,” he said.
“They are still busy in studying our culture. It seems they might take some more time to understand our heritage better. They will start the renovation work only after that,” he added.
He further informed that the governments of India, Japan, Switzerland and few more countries have also promised to support the reconstruction and renovation of several other monuments of the Kathmandu-based World Heritage Sites which were damaged by the earthquakes. He said that the Chinese government has also expressed its readiness to renovate Nuwakot Durbar in Nuwakot district which was damaged by the earthquakes.
Some experts also believe that foreign countries or institutions spend long time in studying the damaged monuments before making any ground work, delaying the reconstruction or renovation works.
“Reconstruction and renovation of our monuments has been delayed because of the government's decision to entrust other countries and foreign agencies with that responsibility,” conservation architect Sudarsan Raj Tiwari told Republica. “So we should do it ourselves. Had we done it ourselves, it wouldn't have taken long time.”
He underscored the need of strengthening the capacity for renovation and reconstruction work by the government, if the DoA can't handle big projects simultaneously in its current capacity.
He also said that the foreign agencies could not start work in time as they faced some complications in bringing money under the title of reconstruction or renovation that don't fall under their regular task.
Bishnu Raj Karki, former joint secretary and conservationist, also agreed that foreign agencies have been delaying the reconstruction and renovation works of the monuments. “It is very unfortunate that the renovation work has not started so far even 15 months after the MoU was signed between the foreign agencies and our government,” he said.
“They are unaware about the Nepali architecture. So they take long time for the study,” he said.
He said that the foreign agencies want to support reconstruction and renovation of such heritage sites so that they can learn about Nepal's culture and arts.