Kathmandu Conference Presentation

Two members from our partnership team, Manoj Suji (Social Science Baha) and Nabin Rawal (Tribhuvan University) presented at the The Annual Kathmandu Conference on Nepal and the Himalaya on July 31st, 2020 in Kathmandu, Nepal.

The paper titled “Discourse of Post-Earthquake Heritage Reconstruction: A Case Study of Bhaktapur Municipalityexplores the discourse of post-earthquake heritage focusing on how UNESCO World Heritage guidelines, and national laws as well as the involvement of different stakeholders affect heritage reconstruction. The paper explores the contested enforcement of international guidelines on heritage reconstruction, particularly in the case of Bhaktapur municipality in the Kathmandu Valley, and the impacts this has on community-led forms of reconstruction.


The 2015 Nepal earthquakes caused massive losses of human lives and physical infrastructures as well as cultural heritage. According to the Post-Disaster Needs Assessment Report, approximately 2,900 historical, cultural, religious monuments and heritage sites including World Heritage Sites in the Kathmandu Valley were damaged. When the formal reconstruction program began, major heritage sites of Kathmandu Valley including Bhaktapur Durbar Square garnered much attention of national and international stakeholders, donors, and heritage activists. However, heritage reconstruction became one of the most contested domains, especially in Bhaktapur Municipality, mainly due to the enforcement of international guidelines in heritage reconstruction. Through several months of ethnographic work in 2018 and 2019 in Bhaktapur Municipality,  this paper explores the discourse of post-earthquake heritage reconstruction focusing on how UNESCO World Heritage guidelines, and national laws as well as the involvement of different stakeholders affect heritage reconstruction? Why did Bhaktapur Municipality want to revive the Malla Period heritages through reconstruction? Through a consideration of these questions, I argue that UNESCO guidelines adopted by the Department of Archaeology seems narrow in defining heritage and capturing people’s historical values and cultural identity as well as collective memories associated with heritages, which has led to contestations on heritage reconstruction. Moreover, conflicts are also fueled due to the new policies and guidelines introduced by the federal government—the Local Government Operation Act 2017, which granted rights to the Municipality for heritage conservation and even for reconstruction. Hence, as opposed to the UNESCO guidelines, Bhaktapur Municipality opted for their own designs to revive Malla Period architectures through the reconstruction program. Likewise, the community preferred user’s committee-led reconstruction as this approach ensured a deep sense of ownership of the heritages as their historical and cultural identity, and enhanced transparency and quality reconstruction.


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