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 Historical documents state that he constructed a Shiva Linga, Mahadev temple, pond, platform, road, rest-house surrounding a temple, and his own statue in that area.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.

Tuesday, March 13, 2001

Heritage conservation campaign likely to meet its end

By Razen Manandhar

KATHMANDU, March 12 - As the 21 year-old international campaign to conserve the cultural heritage of the Kathmandu Valley, launched with the initiation of United Nation’s Scientific Cultural and Educational Organization (UNESCO) ends this month, the UN body is unlikely to renew the campaign.

A heritage expert, on condition of anonymity, said UNESCO will free itself by the end of this month from what it has been doing to conserve the archaeological monuments of the Kathmandu Valley in the past two decades.

The conservation experts warn that end to this Campaign would dampen the ongoing preservation works in and around the Kathmandu Valley, which are mostly run by international donations.

International Campaign for Safeguarding the Cultural Heritage of Kathmandu Valley (ICSCHKV), which works in association with the UNESCO is among the major fund raising units for such conservation works.

Former Ambassador to France and permanent delegate to UNESCO Keshav Raj Jha said that the Campaign made a significant achievement in the public and the government staff’s attitude toward heritage conservation.

"The conclusion of the campaign should not be taken negatively. Because this will provide a good opportunity for the Nepali government and the people to manage their cultural property themselves, " he added.

On the other hand, Peter Laws, information and culture specialist of UNESCO said that this conclusion should not be taken as end of UNESCO’s assistance in the conservation works. He said, "The only difference is that from now onwards, Nepali government will be the driving force behind the works to conserve the heritage sites."

ICSCHKV is holding its fifth and the last Campaign Review Committee (CRC) Meeting from 28 March to 30, where past twenty-one years of work will be evaluated.

Peter Laws, however, said the meeting would also discuss various strategies for the future.

Dr Safalya Amatya, former Director General of Department of Archaeology hopes that the meeting would re-launch another campaign in future.

Some monument zones which were renovated with the assistance of the fund raised by the campaign include the Durbar Squares of Kathmandu, Lalitpur, Bhaktapur and areas like Swayambhu, Pashupatinath, Boudha, Panauti, Thimi, Dahachowk, Lubhu, Bungamati, Khokna, Bode and Dadhikot.

The main objective of the Champaign was to promote significance of the Kathmandu Valley cultural heritage among the people of Nepal and the world, and to preserve it, so that the relevant national authorities can preserve and promote all the cultural heritage of Nepal, the fourth CRC report has stated.

The ICSCHKV was launched by then UNESCO Director General Amadour Mahatar M’bow in Paris on 25 June 1979. The very same year the Kathmandu Valley, consisting of seven zones — Royal palaces of Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur, Stupas of Swayambhu and Baudha, Temples of Pashupatinath, Changu Narayan — was enlisted as UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was based on the Master Plan for the Conservation of the Cultural Heritage in the Kathmandu Valley, formulated in 1977.
[Kathmandu Tuesday March 13, 2001 Falgun 30, 2057.]

Tuesday, March 06, 2001

Fresh storm brewing in the ‘census’ drill

By Razen Manandhar

KATHMANDU, March 5 [2001]- The once in a decade census that determines everything from the fiscal budget to future planning for the country is being conducted this year. Yet, people especially the ethnic minority groups are expressing their doubts that the results would be anything close to the reality.

Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) is conducting a nation-wide census from June 10 to 21 that is suppose to show statistical reality of a country.

But even before officials leave for the cities, towns, villages and remote dwellings knocking on doors, these groups are already crying about conspiracy. And it is not just them ... Majority groups too are crying foul here.

On one hand, Nationalities associations claim that a big conspiracy is being woven to project non-Hindus and people outside the Bahun and Kshetris communities fewer than their actual number in this country that is known for its rich ethnic diversity; Hindu organisations say that this census is an attempt to dismantle the only Hindu Kingdom in the world.

Balkrishna Mabuhang, the general-secretary of Nepal Federation of Nationalities (NFN) said that the nationalities are not confident about results of the coming census.

"We (Nationalities) are not assured that the government would publish true facts. As in the past, they will show that majority of the country is comprised of the Hindus that include Bahun and Kshetris," he said.

He charged that CBS, which is controlled by these predominant caste groups, deliberately ignored NFN’s co-operative approaches and refused their help in the census.

According to him, the bureaucrats want to hide the reality from the world because they do not want the world to know about who suffers the most in economy, education, employment and health and that they belong to the lower class people and the Nationalities.

Similarly, chairman of Dharmodaya Sabha, the leading Buddhist organisation, Lok Darshan Bajracharya said that he believes that only 60 per cent of the figures in the census result could be regarded as credible.

"The government is trying to show that there are only handful of Buddhist in this country," he said.

In 1961, 1971 and 1981, the percentage of the Buddhists was projected as 9.3, 7.5 and 5.3 respectively in CBS reports.

He accused the government that the enumerators are not selected democratically, CBS has never held discussions or interaction programmes with activists and concerned citizens and that is the reason why the present census format is faulty.

He particularly blames the government body for not making the people aware of the objectives, importance and process of census, among the mass.

The Hindus, who are estimated to be 80-to-90 per cent of the total population of the country, too are also not satisfied with the present census pattern.

Senior vice-chairman of World Hindu Federation-Nepal, Bharat Keshar Singh said that a grand plot is being designed to fragment the only Hindu Kingdom and this census is part of the plots.

"Over 40,000 people are working actively to take advantage of this census to bring down the percentage of the Hindus to 17 per cent and then to make this country a secular one. Then they will one day challenge our Hindu King also," he claimed.

"So many new Nationalities and religions have suddenly appeared in this small country. This is a cleverly planned strategy to break the country into small pieces," he claimed.

CBS, the government authority to hold census, however, says the bureau is working hard to compile the true statistics from all over the country.

CBS Deputy General Director Radha Krishna GC said, "We are positive that the result of the census would be conscientious because the people have become fairly aware by now and we are also well prepared."

Trainings on various levels are in the offing and questionnaires and other related documents would be dispatched to the districts next month, he said.

About advertisement, GC admits that due to lack of budget, CBS has not been able to disseminate basic information about the census all over the country.