By Razen Manandhar
KATHMANDU, March 15: The 332- year-old artificial water pool of Ranipokhari, built at the heart of the capital, will soon be free of squatters and will be replaced with musical water fountains, lush green garden and picturesque open ground.
The Kathmandu Metropolitan City has finally decided to demolish the petrol pump, the building with a rooftop cafe and a municipal office as well as a chain of shops on the southern side of the historic Ranipokhari.
KMC received the permission to do so by the cabinet decision of December 20 last year. After waiting for three whole months, it has issued a public notice to vacate the shops and buildings by last Wednesday. But, it has not yet vacated the area.
The shops were given on lease by the government body Auditorium and Public Garden Development Committee (APDC) over a decade ago.
The 81 shop-owners of the area have had an agreement with the APDC, the authority that they pay monthly rent from Rs. 2,000 to 50,000 and would vacate the area when demanded. The committee collects Rs. 12.5 million every year from the shops south of Ranipokhari.
Mayor of Kathmandu Keshav Sthapit said that demolition works would start by next week. He said, "I feel proud to have an opportunity to rebuild the heritage of the city. Actually, I was asking for this permission for the last four years. I’m indebted to Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba for his right decision,"
According to the designs completed by the KMC, the pond will be free from iron bars, chairs will be added around the pond and additional beauty will be added with grass and flower. There will also be colourful water fountains around the pool that will make the historical area the biggest recreational ground of the city.
The KMC also has a plan to open the road from Bagbazaar to Bhotahity for pedestrians and turn the area into a parking zone where people can park to shop in Ason and Bhotahity.
Sthapit said the pond is a cultural heritage and "it should not be occupied by filthy chicken-sellers, vegetable market and stinking public toilets."
National co-director of the Kathmandu Valley Mapping Programme P.S. Joshi said that the Ranipokhari has been the victim of pumping out ground water in the city.
Surendra Ratna Tuladhar, the chairman of the ward, welcomes the plan of cleaning the Ranipokhari area and making a garden there. But he is against closing of the street that joins Bagbazaar and Bhotahity.
"Closing of the main road will affect business of around 3,000 small and big shops in the Ason and Bhotahity area," he said.
Naresh Bir Shakya, the chairman of local Hapaa Guthi, said along with the demolition of stalls, KMC should also take step to dislocate the adjoining Kathmandu Valley Police Office.
"If the police office, said to be built despite strong protest from the locals, continues to remain there, the public will be deprived of going into the garden," he said.
However, the cabinet decision and the KMC’s plan has not decided anything about the newly-built police office.
Deputy Inspector General Amar Singh Shah said the police was ready to follow any decision to beautify the city but it needed the government decision.
However, the local shopkeepers around the area have already made themselves ready to fight against the decision. The local Sorhahate Ganesh Byapar Sangh filed a case against the decision last Friday.
"We are not against the KMC’s project but since we have been running our shops here according to authorized directions, we must be given due consideration," said chairman of the Sangh Rajkrishna Tandukar.
[Kathmandu Saturday March 16, 2002 Chaitra 03, 2058.]