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Nepal begins rebuilding heritage sites damaged by quake

By Shirish B Pradhan
April 25, 2016 18:07 IST
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IMAGE: People walk along the Swayambhunath stupa in Kathmandu, Nepal. Photograph: Navesh Chitrakar/Reuters 

Amid chants of Buddhist scriptures, Nepal Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli on Monday offered prayers at an ancient temple in Kathmandu to mark the reconstruction of five heritage sites demolished by last year's deadly earthquake.

Oli prayed at the 17th century Anantapur Buddhist temple, situated at Swayambhunath stupa, a UNESCO world heritage site which was severely damaged in the April 25 earthquake last year along with more than 600 other historic structures in Nepal.

A day after he led a day of mourning to mark the first anniversary according to the Bikram Era calendar, Oli used the occasion to announce the start of reconstruction of heritage sites in the capital which were damaged by the temblor that killed nearly 9,000 people and caused widespread devastation.

Besides Swayambhunath, construction works also began at three other sites damaged by the quakes in Kathmandu valley.

The reconstruction of the monuments damaged during the quake at the famed Basantapur Durbar Square also officially kicked off.

Senior leader of Nepali Congress Ram Chandra Poudel launched the reconstruction works at Bangshagopal Temple in Kathmandu Durbar Square complex. He said that the government failed to lend pace to the reconstruction of the cultural monuments, heritages and houses destroyed or damaged during the earthquake and the subsequent aftershocks.

Speaking on the occasion, director general of archaeological department of Nepal Bhesh Narayan Dahal said the monuments would be rebuilt without tampering with its originality.

Similarly, Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist chief Prachanda and president of Nepal Workers and Peasants Party Narayanman Bijukche launched the reconstruction works at Patan Durbar Square and Bhaktapur Durbar Square respectively.

Amid criticism of the Nepal government in delaying the reconstruction efforts, the country's first-ever billionaire Binod Chaudhary, an Indian-origin business tycoon, on Monday handed over 571 transitional homes and seven school buildings to the earthquake-affected people at different parts of the country, marking the first anniversary of the devastating earthquake.

While his Chaudhary Foundation provided the material, design, and the technical knowledge, the locals laboured to put these materials together under the given earthquake-proof design to make their own homes. The technical partner is India-based SEEDS and compliance consultant is the global financial consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The April 25 earthquake, which was followed by another powerful quake on May 12, hit the land-locked Himalayan nation badly, displacing lakhs of families besides putting a huge dent in the country's economy.

Around 8,00,000 houses including hundreds of school buildings had collapsed due to the twin quakes that hit as many as 14 districts of Nepal. Some four million survivors are estimated to be still living in temporary shelters.

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Shirish B Pradhan in Kathmandu
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