UNESCO mission wants Valley heritage in danger list

GYAN P NEUPANE

KATHMANDU, June 22: The Reactive Monitoring mission of UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee has asked the committee to place the cultural heritage of Kathmandu Valley in the danger list in view of the government’s failure at timely reconstruction of heritage sites  damaged by earthquake in 2015. Inclusion in the list means the heritage sites concerned  might loose their world heritage status.

“To this end, it is the opinion of the Reactive Monitoring mission that the best way forward for the protection and recovery of the property is that it be placed on the List of World Heritage in Danger,” reads the committee’s report  published on June 2.

Officials of the monitoring mission were in Kathmandu from  March 20 to 25 to observe the post-quake reconstruction efforts carried out by the government. The report was prepared by way of  recommendations for the 41th  session of the World Heritage Committee, which is to take place from July 2 to 12 in Poland.

The report stated that Kathmandu Valley should be included in the List of World Heritage in Danger, in accordance with paragraphs 177 and 179 of the Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention.

The mission has identified major threats to heritage such as  poor coordination between the Department of Archaeology (DoA), the National Reconstruction Authority, site managers, local communities and various project partners, lack of capacity and resources within DoA for managing the post-disaster recovery, lack of a  masterplan for each  monuments zone, lack of protection for severely damaged monuments, lack of adequate documentation of the damage to the monuments caused by earthquake, use of inappropriate construction methods and materials, and lack of adequate monitoring of the work in progress to ensure that appropriate standards are met, among other things.

Bhes Narayan Dahal, director general at DoA, said earlier this week that there is a possibility of Valley heritages ending up in the danger list. “As the severely damaged heritage properties are not undergoing timely renovation, the 41th session of the World Heritage Committee can include the heritages of the Valley in the danger list,” Dahal informed reporters.

However, Dahal further said that if the heritage properties are included in the danger list, this will enable greater mobilization of the international community and its extensive network of experts and resources to assist the Nepal Government in rebuilding the heritage properties.

“The regular process at UNESCO,  if they feel  heritages are in need of further support, is to enlist the sites and appeal to the world community to assist in reconstruction and renovation,” he said. “The final decision will be taken at the 41th session.”

Dahal informed that the heritage properties of Kathmandu Valley were placed in the  danger list in 2003 but reinstated as heritage sites in 2007 after the government again met the criteria set by UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee.

An official at DoA informed that the monitoring mission has been recommending to the World Heritage Committee since the earthquake in Nepal  to put Kathmandu Valley in the danger list . “The mission has been repeatedly asking the committee to put our properties in the danger list. But we will defend against their recommendation, showing them the efforts we have been making. I am sure that this time we will not let them put the properties in the danger list,” he said.

The 40th session of the World Heritage Committee last year had warned the government that the heritages would be put  in the danger list if the  situation remained unchanged. Following the warning, the government on February 1st  requested the World Heritage Committee not to put the heritages of Kathmandu Valley in the danger list.

“The DoA has been working for the protection of the Outstanding Universal Value of the properties and would like to humbly request  the Committee not to put Kathmandu Valley in the list of World Heritage Danger,” reads the DoA’s response to the committee.

First appeared in Republica national daily

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