Tuesday, October 23, 2001

People unconcerned about meat quality

By Razen Manandhar

KATHMANDU, Oct 22 – For all the non-vegetarian Hindus, the festival of Dashain is always the best time of the year as meat is synonymous to the celebration.

The festival is never complete without an exclusive preparation of different meat dishes. But, people tend to forget or have less time to think about the quality of the meat they consume.

Sacrificing male animals to Hindu Goddess Durga is one of the most important aspects of the festival as thousands of buffaloes, goats, cocks and geese are sacrificed in various temples as a part of the festival puja.

Professor of theology at Balmiki Campus Ram Chandra Gautam said that strict rituals should govern the sacrificing of animals, which people seldom follow. "The animal to be sacrificed should be healthy, strong and without any bruises and they should be slaughtered with least pain," says Gautam.

However, as amateurs carry out the most sacrifices in the temples and homes, the meat can be less hygienic.

And most of the local butchers here are found be practicing unhealthy method of slaughtering. They generally use small knives to kill animals and use little water to clean the meat.

Shyam Krishna Khadgi, a local meat sealer at Khichapokhari, said that the present market price of the meat do not allow them to use more hygienic practices in killing and treating the meat as it cost them more than what it cost at present.

"Those who advocate about quality meat should also be ready to afford the price," says Khadgi. "Why do people make a hue and cry when we are selling the meat at nominal profit."

But experts stress that quality should come first than the price. They argue that improper killing of animals make the meat substandard.

Dr Durga Dutta Joshi, chairman of National Zoonoses and Food Hygiene Research Centre (NZFHRC), has an interesting logic. "If the animals are killed while they are in stress or tense, then the meat becomes less hygienic," Dr. Joshi said.

"Even the animals can feel and their body reacts when they are in immense tension at the time of slaughtering," he said.

He said the animals sustaining physical and mental stress before slaughtering and killed in slow process make the meat less attractive, green, greasy, foamy, stiff, tasteless and difficult to cook.

Dutta said that the animals should be transported, kept and slaughtered without letting them feel stressed to produce the best of their meat.

A Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) booklet states that glycogen or sugar content of the muscle is high in healthy and well-rested animal.

If the animal is stressed before and during slaughter, the glycogen is used up, and the lactic acid level that develops in the meat after slaughter is reduced, it is said in the booklet. "The acid in the muscle has the effect of retarding the growth of bacteria that have contaminated the carcass during slaughtering and dressing, which obviously will have adverse effect on the quality of meat."

"It is also important for animals to be well-rested for 24 hours before slaughter," says the booklet.

However, the quality of meat in the market here is far from satisfactory as the majority of the shopkeepers sell unhygienic and substandard meat. No one has ever thought about developing a proper system of checking animals before slaughtering. And to make the matter worse, there is no provision of monitoring the quality of meat before it reaches to the market.

According to a data provided by Dr. Dilip Subba, a food scientist, Kathmandu is the largest market for meat, where people consume 368 buffaloes, 218 goats and 17,558 chickens every day.

There had already been an effort from Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) to construct a proper slaughterhouse for the last one year. It had even selected a location for the construction at the city’s ward No. 12.

But, locals there, who till now been involved in unscientific butchering of buffaloes, protested the KMC’s move. This has left the project in a limbo, further delaying the process of guaranteeing safe meat in the capital market.

Wednesday, October 10, 2001

A private project to renovate three temples at Hanumandhoka

By Razen Manandhar

KATHMANDU, Oct 8 - While government bodies are working in a snail’s pace to preserve the city’s cultural heritage, a non-government organisation has taken the responsibility to renovate three ancient temples at the Hanumandhoka Durbar Square.

The Kathmandu Valley Preservation Trust (KVPT), an NGO working in the field of heritage conservation, has received the permission to renovate the temples of Jagannath, Indrapur and Narayan and beautify the Durbar Square maintaining its archaeological importance. KVPT is spending over Rs. 20 million from different national and international donors.

Among them is the 438-year-old temple of Jagannath, known for its beautiful struts with erotic carvings. Constructed by King Mahendra Malla in 1563, this temple is considered to be the oldest structure that remains intact in the area. Pratap Malla introduced Indian style idols of Jagannath, Subhadra and Balaram in the eastern doorframe of the inner quadrangle of the temple.

King Pratap Malla constructed the temple of Indrapur in 1650 while the temple of Narayan was added in the late 17th century as mentioned in history books.

KVPT had to wait for almost 18 months to get permission from the Department of Archaeology, the prime government body that controls and preserves historic monuments.

It finally got the permission to renovate three major temples of the World Heritage Site a month ago but the Trust waited till the Indrajatra to begin the field works, said Rohit Ranjitkar, an architect of KVPT.

Now that the running around for government permission has finished, the project has already begun its works. And it will take some four years to complete the project, according to Ranjitkar.

"We will do our best to maintain their historical values when we replace the ruined parts with new ones," said Ranjitkar. "Though it will increase the cost by more than two times, we will let the history live in the temples."

Ranjitkar said the project would not bring the whole structures down, as it will only ruin its original beauty.

Most of the temples and buildings of the 12th-century-palace collapsed during the 1934 earthquake and the then Rana Prime Minister Juddha Shumshere painstakingly renovated them from the national treasure.

Pictures taken before the earthquake shows that the Narayan temple collapsed to the foundation whereas only the first floors of other two temples fell down due to the 8 rector scale earthquake, according to Ranjitkar.

He said the barandah of Indrapur, the third floor of Narayan temple and the doorsteps of Jagannath temples are different from the pre-earthquake pictures. "The renovation will try to bring back the shapes of pre-earthquake monuments by using old pictures," said Ranjitkar.

The trust has spent more than a year in documentation of the temples of the Hanumandhoka area. "Such detail documents will be useful even to reconstruct such temples in future and let people understand their value," Ranjitkar said.

KVPT intends to uplift the archaeological environment of the Hanumandhoka Durbar Square - from cleaning to raising awareness for the locals and erecting an information stall either for the tourists or for the locals.

KVPT has the experience of renovating Radhakrishna temple, Kwalakhu Pati, Patukwa Aganchhen, Lakhe Aganchhen and Kulima Narayan temple in the Patan area.