Heritage Walk Down The Fresh Trail
World heritage sites are the common property of mankind. There are over one thousand such sites all over the world. World heritage sites are important from cultural, religious, historical and other viewpoints. They are either natural or manmade sites. Mountains, forests, lakes, historical places, religious shrines, human settlements, etc. could be world heritage sites. World heritage sites are selected by the UNESCO and protected by special treaties. The main motive behind designating certain places as world heritage sites is to protect and preserve them for posterity. The significance of world heritage sites is amplified today in the context of the environment being destroyed by dint of anthropogenic activities, which are often carried on in the name of development.
On November 16, 1972, the General Conference of the UNESCO adopted the Convention Concerning Protection of the World’s Cultural and Natural Heritages. Since then, over 190 states, including Nepal, have ratified the convention. The convention has proved itself to be one of the most important conventions targeting at preserving natural and manmade sites around the world. Countries with world heritage sites have a special responsibility for their preservation and upkeep. Some world heritage sites can also get funds from the World Heritage Fund for their preservation.
Nepal has ten world heritage sites. They are religious, historical and natural heritages. Pashupatinath Temple, Bouddhanath Temple, Swoyambhunath Temple, Changunarayan Temple, Kathmandu Durbar Square, Patan Durbar Square, Bhaktapur Durbar Square, Lumbini, Chitwan National Park and Sagarmatha National Park round out the list of world heritage sites in the country.
The significance of such world heritage sites in Nepal, as in other countries, can hardly be exaggerated. Natural world heritage sites, if preserved properly, can contribute to preserving the natural environment and biodiversity. On the other hand, world heritage sites in the form of historical and cultural places are the legacy of our ancestors handed down from generation to generation. Further, world heritage sites can also act as a catalyst in attracting tourists. In a cash-strapped country like ours, world heritage sites can greatly boost the tourism industry, which will, in turn, spur the economy.
Just the other day on April 18, 2018, World Heritage Day was observed across the world by organising various programs. In Kathmandu, the day was observed for a week from April 15 to 21. On the last day of the programme, a historic walk was organised from Hanumandhoka to Swoyambhunath, which lie apart at a mere distance of 2.2 kilometres. It may be popularly called a heritage-to-heritage walk. Nepal is perhaps the only country in the world where two world heritage sites lie at such a short distance. So it does not take much time and effort to walk from Hanumandhoka to Swoyambhunath.
There are many temples, stone spouts and other things of monumental importance along the Hanumandhoka-Swoyambhunath trail. The trail was determined in consultation with trail-developing experts certified by the UNESCO. The heritage-to-heritage walk may be considered a new concept. This concept will certainly commend itself to tourists, both domestic and foreign. Such programs will not only make people aware of heritages but also sensitize them to the need for preserving them. Heritages exist galore in old settlements of the Kathmandu Valley. It would be imprudent to destroy such settlements in the name of development, for example for construction of roads or expansion of existing roads. Such programs should not be just a nine days’ wonder; they need to be perpetuated and replicated in other areas to the extent possible. The success of such programs will make a positive impact at the local level by promoting local products with the result that the economic conditions of locals will also get a shot-in-the-arm.
There is a plan for marking the Hanumandhoka-Swoyambhunath heritage trail in a distinct manner by paving the whole trail with cobblestones or brick/stone blocks, or painting its whole length in the same colour. Any way, it is important to distinguish it from other paths or trails so that it can be easily identified. The concerned bodies need to promptly systematise the heritage trail along with proper guiding services.
Nepal is rich in temples, shrines, monuments, historical places and natural endowments like rivers, lakes, waterfalls, gorges and mountains. The earthquake of 2015 played havoc with human life and property. The three durbar squares of the Kathmandu Valley and many temples, shrines and other structures were damaged or destroyed in the earthquake. But the government has not paid adequate attention to reconstruction and rehabilitation. As such, the Kathmandu Valley is still in ruins in a sense. The reconstruction of the historical Rani Pokhari is in limbo due to controversies over its reconstruction method. The process for reconstructing the Dharahara tower and the Kasthmandup temple has not been initiated yet. How can the government afford to neglect the reconstruction of such important monuments and temples for so long a time?
So it is high time the government accelerated the reconstruction and rehabilitation drive. It is disappointing to note that the government has not been able to mobilise all the funds pledged by donors at the Donors’ Conference held in Kathmandu in 2015 due to its nonchalant attitude and lack of follow-up. The government is again contemplating convening another donors’ conference. However, people are not satisfied with the way the government has been conducting the reconstruction and rehabilitation activities.
Be that it may, world heritage sites are the assets of the world as a whole. The government should not only preserve the existing sites but also explore other areas which could be eligible for being declared world heritage sites. Nepal is rich in heritages. The preservation of such heritages along with infrastructure development is indubitably in the interest of the country itself.