Friday, December 08, 2000

Private construction encroaches historic site

By Razen Manandhar

LALITPUR, Dec 6 - Despite the locals’ protest, a concrete house is being built, on war footing, encroaching a 2000 years old stupa site, directly opposite to the Lalitpur Sub-metropolitan City (LSC) office, say locals.

Anil Rajbhandari, a local resident of Lalitpur ward No. 3, has already built a concrete foundation and possibly a basement, too which is just a metre away from the Ashoka Stupa.

"We protested against this construction a month ago at LMC office," said Shyam Maleku Shrestha, a 76 year-old local resident. "But we don’t know what is going on between the owner of that land and municipality. But, they are not stopping it, though this is taking place under the nose of the municipality office," he added.

According to Shrestha, the house also encroaches upon a 240-year old historic rest house (Sattal) site, which holds ritual importance during the festival of Akshaya Tritiya and Indra Jatra.

An officer at the Department of Archaeology (DoA), on condition of anonymity, said that he rejected the construction proposal when the land owner came to seek permission a week ago. But, the owner later approached another officer and had the proposal approved "under strange circumstances," he said.

He also adds,"The building owner had faced several orders to stop construction in the past, whenever he tried to build it."

He also informed that the house owner had tried to obtain similar approvals number of times in the past but each time his bid to construct a house was foiled by DoA and the municipality.

However, Buddhi Raj Bajracharya, Mayor of LSC said, the building doesn’t encroach the historical site and also has not violated the rules and standing laws. "Those who oppose may have some vested interest," he added.

Bajracharya, however, informed that LSC had not given permission to the owner for the basement construction.

Documents at LSC show that Rajbhandari got the permission in September 1999. The blue print of the building bears signatures of the mayor, executive officer, acting engineer and representative of DoA.

Acting engineer at LSC Map Approval Department Badri Tamrakar said that LMC gave permission to build the house because the builder has followed all the criteria and also had the permission from the DoA, which is vital in such a sensitive region.

Historian Hari Ram Joshi said that finding ancient objects in that area is not unusual. "Excavation in that area would bring many important facts regarding the history of the stupa. But it is a shame that the government gives permission not only to build a house but also to dig a deep basement in that area."

He also recalled that, seventh century objects were found while building Nepal Telecommunication Corporation building at Naxal and a subway crossing at Bhotahity but the government did not stop the constructions.