Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Valley stone spouts bear brunt of neglect

Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, October 25 (2004):

Ancient stone spouts in Kathmandu Valley, so useful in the dry season, are in a sorry state for lack of conservation. Negligence apart, some spouts have even turned into private property because of the collusion by government bodies.

There are over 225 stone spouts in Kathmandu alone. Similarly, there are 77 in Bhaktapur, 61 in Thimi, 53 in Patan, and 12 in Kirtipur excluding others in less populated areas. Most were constructed during the Lichhavi and Malla periods, between the 7th to 17th

Sundhara, the biggest of all spouts, is lying dry and useless after a government institution disturbed its pipelines by digging the land behind it to construct a business complex a decade ago.

Yangal Hiti, a Lichhavi era spout, is now the personal property of some local aristocrats. The stone spout at Hadigaon, constructed in the 7th century, stopped working after a concrete building was constructed beside it.

Bhotahiti and Thahiti have remained merely the name of the places because no spout is there now although the names suggest so.

Some of the non-existant or completely destroyed stone spouts are at Dirnarayan Marga, Santi Marga Naxal, Hatisar Sadak, Tindhara Durbar Marga, Nachgahar Jamal, Bhotahiti and Bagh Bazar near Nepal Electricity Authority, a recent study has revealed.

Prakash Chandra Amatya, secretary general of the NGO Forum for Urban Water and Sanitation, said even small attempts to conserve these spouts could be a great relief to the denizens of the Valley in the dry season from November to June as the government's distribution of piped water falls short.

"Apart from their cultural significance, the spouts provide us an abundant quantity of non-stop water. Local efforts to conserve water resources and manage the output can end the shortage," he said.

Now and then, Kathmandu Metropolitan City toots its horn about its commitment to conserve cultural heritage but it has done precious little to conserve these spouts.

Narendra Raj Shrestha, chief of KMC's heritage conservation department said one or two spouts are being conserved after pressure from locals but as such there is no enunciated policy under any work plan to conserve these sources of water.

"It is obviously the duty of KMC. But I don't think we have resources. His Majesty's government should also support us in conservation projects," Shrestha admitted.