Kathmandu’s monuments not in danger – UNESCO

UNESCO has voted not to put Kathmandu Valley’s World Heritage Sites on its “in Danger List”, bringing a sense of relief to country’s business and tourism operators.

The United Nations Heritage body made the decision during the 39th session of its World Heritage Committee in the German city of Bonn on Thursday after deliberating on the State of Conservation Report presented by Director General of the Department of Archaeology (DoA) Bhesh Narayan Dahal on behalf of Nepal government.

The sites have been a subject of ongoing concern after Unesco consultant agencies International Council on Monument and Sites and International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property had recommended to put them on the danger list after the devastating April 25 earthquake and its aftershocks.

The World Heritage Committee has decided against putting Valley’s monuments on the danger list for this year, said DoA spokesperson Ram Bahadur Kunwar, adding that the committee will review the status of the sites next year.

Kathmandu had appeared on the draft of the committee’s danger list and the session was widely expected to endorse it, Chief Archaeological Officer at DoA Damodar Gautam said.

All of Valley’s seven sites which were included on the World Heritage List in 1979 for their archaeological, historical, cultural and religious importance, had sustained damage in the devastating April 25 earthquake.

Among them Swayambhunath stupa, Changu Narayan temple, and the Durbar Squares of Basantapur, Patan and Bhaktapur have suffered considerable damage with many structures reduced to rubble. In comparison, two other heritage sites—Boudhanath stupa and Pashupatinath temple—are largely intact.

World heritage sites which lose their signifying character and for the conservation of which major operations are necessary are included in the World Heritage in Danger List, according to Gautam.

Article 11(4) of the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage states that “the Committee shall establish, keep up to date and publish, whenever circumstances shall so require, under the title of ‘List of World Heritage in Danger’, a list of the property appearing in the World Heritage List for the conservation of which major operations are necessary and for which assistance has been requested under this Convention.”

According to the DoA, a total of 745 historical, cultural and religious monuments in 20 districts were damaged by the Great Earthquake and its aftershocks. Among them, 133 have been destroyed, while 612 have sustained partial damage. An estimated Rs 20.56 billion will be required to rebuild the damaged monuments, according to the Post-Disaster Needs Assessment report, prepared by the National Planning Commission.

With the inclusion of Yemen’s Old City of Sana’a and Old Walled City of Shibam this year, the number of properties on the Unesco world danger list currently stands at 48.  Kathmandu was included on the list in 2003 because of haphazard construction of residential and commercial buildings in and around the heritage sites, but was removed in 2007 after the government took “appropriate” corrective measures.

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