It has been requested by a group of heritage activists and conservationists that President Bidya Devi Bhandari suspend construction of the Kathmandu View Tower commercial building near Ratnapark and repurpose the structure to house the National Library. The memorandum was submitted to President Bhandari by a group of heritage activists and conservationists. They have also advised that the planned bus station, which would be located in the basement of the structure, be operational.
Following an hour-long discussion with the President on Tuesday, a dozen activists who have long expressed concern about the dilapidated condition of the Lalitpur-based National Library building, which was damaged in the 2015 earthquakes and has remained unrepaired, presented a memorandum to the President on Wednesday.
Alok Siddhi Tuladhar, a conservationist who was among the petitioners who met with Bhandari, said, “We have appealed to the President to put a halt to the development of the commercial building and convert it into a National Library building.”
On November 11, 2015, Vice President Nanda Bahadur Pun laid the cornerstone for a multi-story Kathmandu View Tower at the Old Bus Park, which would be completed in 2018. An deal between Kathmandu Metropolitan City and Jaleshwor Swachchhanda Bkoi Builders Pvt Ltd, a public-private partnership, called for the construction of the view tower to be completed in three years, according to the agreement. The project was expected to cost Rs7 billion, according to the estimates. However, only six storeys have been built in the span of just six years.
“This is the oldest bus park in Kathmandu, built on land provided by the community for the benefit of the public.” We have been protesting against the construction of a commercial development on this property for quite some time. “If the National Library, which is in a deplorable situation, is relocated here from Harihar Bhawan, this place has the potential to be transformed into a learning hub,” said Ganapati Lal Shrestha, another preservationist.
Although the initial concept called for a 29-story skyscraper, the Kathmandu Metropolitan City chose to scale back the project after the 2015 earthquakes, resulting in a structure with only 12 stories. However, there were a number of setbacks in the construction process.
After initially being relocated to the Khula Manch for six months, the Old Bus Park continued to function from the Khula Manch for another six years, until it was finally closed in July of this year. It was only after a long campaign by heritage activists under the banner of “Occupy Tundikhel” that the Kathmandu Metropolitan City agreed to remove the bus park from the Khula Manch complex. Since July, public buses have been picking up and dropping off passengers on the side of the road because there is no bus terminal in the area.
Our meeting with the President was prompted by our desire to see public property protected and preserved. According to heritage campaigner and lawyer Sanjay Adhikari, “it should be handled with caution.”
The view tower is being built on a plot of land measuring around 24 ropani [1.22 hectares]. According to the current concept, the first and second floors will be utilised as a bus station, with the other floors being used for commercial purposes, including restaurants, movie theatres, and seminar halls, among other things.
Heritage campaigners believe that establishing a public library in the heart of the Capital would be the most effective method to make use of the public property available to them.
“Considering that they have already constructed the structure, it would be stupid to demolish it.” Additionally, because it is public land, it should not be used for commercial purposes,” Adhikari stated.
Prior to it, the government had chosen to construct a new building for the National Library on a piece of public land in Jamal that had previously been utilised by the Tribhuvan University. However, on July 19, 2020, the administration made the decision to abandon the initiative.
The earthquakes of 2015 caused significant damage to Harihar Bhawan, the historic edifice that houses the National Library. Following the earthquake, hundreds of historical documents and manuscripts, some dating back more than 300 years, were found wrapped in sacks. According to library officials, a termite infestation in the building poses a significant threat to the historical records on the premises.
When the Post spoke with Ishwor Man Dangol, spokesperson for the Kathmandu Metropolitan City, about heritage activists’ efforts to campaign for the conversion of the observation tower building into a library, he stated that the City was unaware of the efforts.
As a result of the National Library’s location at the Old Bus Park site, heritage activists claim that thousands of students will benefit from the facility, which is home to dozens of schools and colleges, including the Durbar High School, the Padmodaya School, the Ratna Rajya Campus, the Bishwa Bhasa Campus, Nepal Law College, and Tri Chandra College.
“We respectfully request that the President take into consideration all of these positive qualities and appoint a guardian to oversee the transfer of the current building to the National Library while giving the appropriate compensation to the contractor,” the statement states.