Kathmandu's fate of being listed as endangered heritage site hangs in balance

Source:Xinhua Published: 2013-2-27 20:52:53

With a controversial road that cuts through the Pashupati Monument Zone of Nepali capital Kathmandu still in place, the fate of the city being listed as a World Cultural Heritage Site has remained unpredictable.

In 2011, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the global custodian of world heritages, had suggested the government of Nepal to come up with an alternative to the dirt road that cuts through the Pashupati Area one of the seven UNESCO-listed monument zones of Kathmandu citing possible danger the road possess to Pashupati's archaeological and historical value.

According to UNESCO, if one of the seven monument zones of Kathmandu World Cultural Heritage Site two Hindu sites (Pashupati and Changunarayan), two Buddhist sites (Swayambhunath and Bouddhanath) and three historic sites of Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Patan Durbar Squares is altered in such a way that the change mars the cultural and natural beauty of the site, the entire Valley will be listed as endangered.

"The government of Nepal has already submitted a detailed report to the UNESCO regarding the case, and various solutions to this problem are being discussed with Nepal's Department of Archaeology, Pashupati Area Development Trust and other stakeholders," Axel Plathe, the UNESCO Representative to Nepal, told Xinhua during an exclusive interview in Kathmandu on Wednesday.

"The report addresses the issue well, which also reflects the seriousness the government of Nepal has taken in the matter."

According to Plathe, the report has been already forwarded to Paris where the World Heritage Center will assess it and submit their conclusion in the upcoming annual meeting of the World Heritage Committee to be held in Cambodia later this year.

Meanwhile, he refuted the rumor that Kathmandu will be delisted from the World Heritage Site list if it is listed as endangered heritage site yet again. However, he added that like other world heritages across the globe, Kathmandu also has challenges and risks which should be tackled duly.

Earlier in 2003, UNESCO had already listed Kathmandu as an endangered heritage site once, owing to the newly built private houses around the Bouddhanath Monument Zone, which was later ratified by the government after it reconstructed the houses complying with the historical designs.

"Just because Kathmandu has certain risks and challenges, it does not mean that the city will be listed as endangered world heritage site," Plathe said.

The controversial dirt road was constructed by the United Bagmati Cultural Development Committee, a local committee in the area, in 2007, which the Nepali Road Department and the Pashupati Area Development Trust claimed they had no clue during the inception.

"The constructors (of the road) did not come to us for our consent before dragging a bulldozer through the Pashupati Monument Zone," Division Chief Gopal Bahadur Khadka of Nepal's Department of Road Planning told Xinhua Wednesday.

Similarly, member secretary of Pashupati Area Development Trust Sushil Nata also lamented that the road was opened without the approval from his organization.

"It was on Saturday the track road was opened right through the middle of Shesmantak Forest of Pashupati Monument Zone," Nata said. "When the office resumed on Sunday we were shocked after seeing the road in the middle of the forest."

Given the government's address on the matter, it is less likely that Kathmandu Cultural Heritage Site will be listed as endangered site, Plathe said. He also clarified that even if Kathmandu is listed as endangered site, the listing will be aimed at raising awareness for corrective actions from the government and other organizations concerned.

Kathmandu Valley, inscribed as a cultural world heritage site in 1979, is one of the four world heritage sites of Nepal, the other three being the cultural site of Lumbini, and the two natural heritage sites of Chitwan National Park and Sagarmatha National Park.

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