Sunday, March 25, 2001

Guthi Sansthan set to lease religious land

By Razen Manandhar

KATHMANDU, March 24 - Guthi Sansthan (GS), the Trusts Corporation, is all set to lease four plots of land, that has religious and archaeological importance, for commercial purposes in the Kathmandu Valley.

GS decided on March 6 to lease three plots of land at Pakanajol and one of Siphal inviting through a public notice for private individuals or firms to apply for setting up structure for commercial purposes.

Saroj Thapaliya, engineer at GS, said that it is leasing the land to generate income from these plots of land that so far were going to waste.

Locals fear that these four plots of land too could meet similar fate faced by another such land leased out by GS.

A 193-year-old Shiva temple and its surrounding 14 anaas area opposite of Paknajol Sorhakhutte Pati, that was leased by GS is now being used as storage for kerosene and cooking gas by Durga Devi Amatya who pays "minimal rent" to GS.

This has blocked the devotees from visiting the temple. Worse, a semi underground tank has been built and the temple has turned into a warehouse.

The temple was constructed around 1807 by a government officer, Bhotu Pande, who played an important role in Nepal-Tibet-China war. Historical documents state that he constructed a Shiva Linga, Mahadev temple, pond, platform, road, rest-house surrounding a temple, and his own statue in that area. He had allocated around 70 ropanis of land for continuation of rituals in the temple and its renovation.

However, the whole area has been occupied by residential houses these days. There was a pond some 15 years ago on which the squatters have built private houses. A part of the pond was "donated" to Lekhnath Sahitya Sadan. Now, the area is used as a bus park.

Besides, a water spout is being covered by piles of garbage and plastic bottles and the path to the spout is blocked by kerosene containers. Ward police office and several private houses have been built between the two temple areas.

Ram Bir Manandhar, chairman of Ward No 16 of Kathmandu Metropolitan City, said that the ward office has been trying to rescue the temple from the kerosene oil seller for years but GS has been supporting the lease and Department of Archaeology is not taking any action. "This can one day cause a big damage to the archaeological site," he said.

"Guthi Samsthan is meant to protect the monuments, not to destroy them. While it is not protecting the leased area, it is again trying to make money out of the land that has cultural value for the local people," he said. "This tradition of destroying our culture by leasing the land for commercial purpose should be stopped."

He added that such areas should be used as open space, either as widened roads or gardens or parks for the growing population of the metropolis.

Department of Archaeology presented a report to then Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture in May 8, 2000, after the minister’s instruction to survey the area, following the ward office’s memorandum to the prime minister and the minister, to evacuate the temple premises.

An officer of Department of Archaeology said it wrote several times to GS to conserve the monument site but it never reacted.