Wednesday, July 17, 2002

Wanna buy a ready-made house?

Razen Manandhar

To dream of buying a house in the capital is perhaps "a duty" of all the citizens who come here at least for once on whatever purpose. In a country where decentralisation is only a minister’s pastime and all the decision-makers are stuck to it; it is not a crime either. When people realise that buying a house in the capital is not easy with regular income, some dig out "source-force" to get a job at the Department of Customs and others try their luck in Wai Wai Noodles.

While all sorts of industry are licking the ground, one unprecedented type of business is shining here. In a year, around two dozen companies have come up with dreamy schemes to sell ready-made houses and apartments in the suburbs of the valley. And, there is no government or municipality in the "urbanisation" campaign but private business houses.

According to available sources, there are at least 30 such companies who have already either taken their plans to the floor or table-working to face the market. That has become almost mushrooming in the periphery of the valley.

Ansal Chaudhary Developers, Sunrise Homes, CE Engineering, are some of major investors in this field and others are ICL property, Civil Co-operative, Oriental Housing, Sangril-la Villa, Comfort Housing, S Investment and so on. The Ansal Chaudhary Developers alone has planned to spread their merchandise in 85 ropanis of land. That means, in total, there will be more 1,200 families with permanent residences in the capital, either with independent houses or with apartments. In the history of housing, this is of course a groundbreaking event. They do deserve encouragement.

Still, there are things each citizen should think about before leaping. The business of real-estate itself has an infamous history. This type of business emerges when people can’t find any suitable place for investment. Buying a piece of land instead of investing the money in an industry or running an individual business has been our "culture". We don’t believe that investment pays. The housing companies or the banks supporting them have lots of money and they know that one after another industries are falling into the pit of bankruptcy. So they chose this "risk-free" business: They say, there may or may not be profit but there is little risk of losing your investment.

This is the reason real-estate business came on the rise after the 1990 democracy. People had money but they needed safe landing of the capital. The developers as well as the clients are in search of a glamorous means for financial mobility. Thus housing and land development is the apt business when nothing progresses or the state is in confusion.

Most of the developers has taken this new business as a part-time or supplementary to their major corporate organisations. Most are related with construction business. Some have industry of building materials or just imports them or own banks. And they admit that they are just experimenting on the business. They might have money enough to practice "learning by doing" but the clients may not and their life and money should not be guinea pigs to the big houses industrialists.

Despite the laws and regulations concerning building construction, what goes on at the Map Section of KMC is not a secret. The laws hardly reach implementation stage. Therefore KMC openly admits that one in three houses are built against the regulations, how can we be assured that all the built house have indeed followed the regulations inch by inch? KMC has just come up with a grand building by-laws and its implementation is still far way. In this situation, how can one expect that the houses in the showcases are really "legal (in practice too)"?

The ready-made houses are being built in the capital’s suburb or in the surrounding villages, where there is no system of map approval, quality inspection. Such areas are more or less virgin to urban development and need a long term vision to develop so that they may not be more "New Baneshwor" areas.

The developers will bring only physical facility but the quality of a building cannot be visible in Photoshop-aided diagrams and pictures. To make a "house", what is more important than washable distemper is the right place to dispose human waste. The main road, the drinking water, drainage, telephone, electricity etc are still the part of the state facilities and a house cannot be a piece of heaven but a inseparable part of the urban infrastructure.

This is a capital where a campus wall falls and a passerby dies on the spot but the builder or owner of the wall is not punished. In such condition, who will be responsible if the houses turn fake, low quality some half a decade later? Will the developers be present after one decade and be ready to respond the house/flat owners’ complains? Who will take the guarantee of future of the buildings? State?

Sunday, July 07, 2002

Nyatapola Temple

Heritage tour

By Razen Manandhar
We must be proud that our forefathers have left lots of things for us to wonder. Among them, the grand temple behind the Durbar Square of Bhaktapur is one. They we so much skilled that they could construct about 100 feet high temples, with no other materials than mud, bricks, wood and a bit of stones. The Nyatapola temple (known as five-storey pagoda to others) is standing upright today. The temple is going to celebrate its 300th birthday soon next week.

King Bhupatindra Malla had the temple of Nyatapola constructed in Nepal Era 822 (in 1702 AD), which lies at Tomarhi tole of Bhaktapur. Some say that there had been a simple five-storey temple there and the king only made it grand, in the course of competition among the several states of today’s Kathmandu Valley to decorate their states with the biggest structures. Today, this pagoda stands as the biggest temple of the valley.

The temple is made on brick and stone plinths made on 22.5 X 22.5 metre square. On fifth plinth, there stands the elegant temple with five roofs made one on another. surrounded by fife arches on each side. A long straight stone series of steps takes you to the top, which is also a suited view point to get a panoramic picture of Bhaktapur. One can see giant pairs of warriors, elephants, lions, griffins and tantric deities on either side of the steps.

None of the wooden pegs, beams, supporting structures in the temple are placed without adding a taste of art on them. The ends of the beams spread on the ceiling are given head-figures of legendary animals and skeletons. The doors are so delicately carved that one can find images of gods, guards or animals on every inch And so are the decorative windows on either sides. They are not randomly put but the artists were following an unwritten tradition of which deity should occupy which space of the temple.

Simlarly, there are similar windows on other floors too. The roofs are made of wood beams with local tiles on them and supporting struts. The struts are, like in other pagodas, the major attractions of the temple. There are in total colourful 108 struts with images of deities and 529 wind-bells under the five roofs. The gold-plated pinnacle of the temple is said to be of almost 100 kg. One can hardly imagine how the people of Bhaktapur brought it up to 100 feet without any crane.

Historians say it took only six months to complete the whole temple, it is an example of mideaval construction management. They have found out that 1.1 million bricks and 100,000 tiles were used to construct the temple. Eight kilns were set around the site and thousands people from all areas of the Bhaktapur state were invited to contribute in the making of the matchless temple. Even the kings of surrounding states visited the site to observe the construction process. A 48-day long worshipping took place when the temple was consecrated. The king was so happy that threw a dinner to over 2,000 people and he presented a golden crown to the first priest who consecrated the temple on that occasion.

The main deity inside the temple has been kept secret. They believe that the mystic deity is very powerful and anybody’s entrance to the temple who is not strong to see the deity might even die. Only a edified priest can enter the temple once a year.

Quoting the priest historian Dr Purushottam Locan Shrestha said : The temple houses Goddess Siddhi Laxmi — a union of Chandi Bhadrakai, Pratyangira and Siddhi Laxmi — the supreme savior of the city of Bhaktapur. She has nine heads, 16 arms. She is sitting on Rudra who himself has made Betal his mattress. The goddess is flanked by Mahakal Bhairav and Smashan Bhairav on both sides. The whole image is made on one single piece of stone.

Religious importance aside, the temple has been a mystery to the present engineers. They say that the secret behind the strength of the temple is the perfect combination among the foundation, plinth and the temple structure. Even when the valley was hit with over 8 rector scale earthquake and hundreds of temples collapsed completely, the Nyatapola Temple lost only its top floor. It was renovated several times, Late King Mahendra did in 1962 and Bhaktapr Municipality in 2000.

The heritage is standing today with pride, as a challenge to the modern technology and people’s lukewarm attraction to the beauty of the past. Howsoever, the 300-year old legacy is not safe. Many of the idols on the fist floors have stolen. The paintings were damaged. The sculpture of the warrior was damaged by a vehicle. The local government at least must do something to stop the vehicles plying in front of the temple.
[Kathmandu, Sunday, july 07, 2002 Ashadh 23, 2059.]