Every few weeks we are reminded of the calamitous event that shook Nepal on the 25th April 2015 through aftershocks, small and large. However, the reconstruction and rehabilitation process has only begun recently, almost a year after the disaster, with the functioning of the Nepal Reconstruction Authority (NRA), after a prolonged delay.
But the government is not just focused on rebuilding houses and livelihood of the people. Nepal is a gem when it comes to heritage and culture. Hence, the reconstruction of the various UNESCO cultural heritage sites in Nepal is a major priority as is the reconstruction of other temples and shrines scattered around the affected areas. The Director General of the Department of Archeology, Bhesh Narayan Dahal, reports damages to a total of 753 heritage sites around Nepal, 250 of which are in Kathmandu, 130 in Lalitpur and 78 in Bhaktapur. Other partially damaged sites have been reported in 20 districts around the country. The artifacts from the damaged sites are held safely in the Kathmandu, Patan, and Bhaktapur Durbar Squares’ museums respectively while other artifacts from around the city have been placed in the National Museum.
“Although the complete reconstruction of all damaged areas may take around 5 to 8 years, the government as well as the Department of Archeology has prioritized 104 sites including the Swayambhu Stupa, Changunarayan, Boudha Stupa, the Laximanarayan Temple in Thapathali and the Trailokya Mohan Temple for reconstruction”, says Dahal. Other affected sites that have also been prioritized are in Nuwakot, Sindhupalchowk and Gorkha.
The budget for the reconstruction of cultural heritage sites has been set at 78 crores. 43 multi-year tenders have already been released to ensure that no site is left unfinished after the fiscal year is passed. 61 tenders will expire this year by which time the construction and reconstruction must also be completed. 27 tenders have been issued recently and the renovation processes will begin shortly.
The focus of the government, says Dahal, is ensuring that the details of the heritage sites is not tampered with. "After all, they represent our civilization and how the Nepalese people came to be,” he added. Hence the government aims to use same material and designs used for the construction of the heritage sites earlier.
This is where artists like Ratna Muni Brahmacharya step in. Being part of a line of crafters and artists that date back 2400 years, he has been involved in restoring ancient Nepali architecture and art through the use of skills and techniques passed down by his forefathers. Brahmacharya, his family, and his students are assets when it comes to design renovation. These crafters are experts in carving wood, metal, bone, and other materials and are thoroughly acquainted with the nooks and crannies of the damaged architectural structures. Using the knowledge Brahmacharya’s family has gathered over the years, the government can ensure the designs created by our ancestors will be preserved wholly.
To ensure all sites are cleared, every day, field representatives are making rounds to sites to assess damage and estimate the cost for each major project. Reports are arriving and being published, along with tenders so the work can be initiated. But the budget must also be kept in consideration while they are allocating a sum to a certain project.