Lalitpur, August 12: Pilanchhe, an inner settlement one-and-half kilometers north-east of Patan Durbar Square - listed in the World Heritage Site, was not spared by the April 2015 earthquake. More than 100 houses were fully or partially damaged. The livelihood of many house-owners depended on the rent they received from renting out their houses. When the houses collapsed, not only their income source dried up but the reconstruction was also difficult.
But Pilanchhe residents did not lose hope. They came up with a project to rebuild their houses with support from various organizations. They not only reconstructed their houses, but also tried to develop ways of income generation as well. They developed a projecct with support from some non-governmental organizations and started reconstructing their houses with a combination of traditional design and modern technology.
The results have started to show now. The reconstruction 37 houses out of 86 houses participating in the project have already completed. And, other houses are currently under construction. Although modern technology and materials were used in the reconstruction of these houses, the outer design is unique and traditional.
"Pilanchhe Reconstruction and Tourism Promotion Project" is running at the initiation of Maya Foundation. The Foundation has taken an aim of increasing tourism activity and increase the locals' income through it.
According to Foundation President Ramesh Maharjan, some families have already started running home-stays and started earning. Likewise, various business activities have also increased. A culture of cooperation has also revived among the local residents, who helped each other in the course of reconstruction.
The project is not targeted only towards the youth. Even the senior citizens have been linked to work as per the goal to mobilize all age groups of the society. Old ladies wearing Hakupatashi (traditional Newari costume) sit at aPhalcha (seat) at the entrance of the settlement and draw yarn. The activities at the settlement are exciting.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) Sushil Gyewali visited the under-construction Newari settlement of Pilanchhe today. He said that the reconstruction is not only about bare physical reconstruction but also preservation of originality and search for livelihood measures.
He informed that six heritage settlements are being developed by protecting their originality and assured to facilitate as far as possible on behalf of the NRA to conduct livelihood activities in Pilanchhe.
Mayor of Lalitpur Metropolitan City Chhiri Babu Maharjan said efforts of Pilanchhe was exemplary and committed to collaborate on it.
Culture expert Satya Mohan Joshi remembered having advised to reconstruct Pilanchhe in a unique way as Pilanchhe and its surrounding area is connected to history. Joshi is also the Patron of Pilanchhe Reconstruction and Tourism Promotion Project.
Pilanchhe is known for its tradition, architecture, customs and festivals running since Licchhavi regime. There are also various structures of archeological importance in this place. There is Ganesh Temple, Pilanchhe Pond, andGuthighar (community hall), among others in this settlement- settled mostly by Maharjans. Cultural activities like various festivals and customs make a settlement lively.
The National Reconstruction Authority, which has been looking for ways to expedite private housing reconstruction in urban areas for some time, has introduced various incentive schemes. It has already announced to give an additional grant of Rs. 50,000 to construct the facade of houses in heritage settlements in a traditional way.
At a time when the private housing reconstruction in urban areas is slower compared to the reconstruction in rural areas, it is very likely that Pilanchhe will become an example.
Reconstruction in Pilanchhe has shown how reconstruction is not only about physical reconstruction but can also be made a way of income generation by protecting ancient originality.
By Dipak Sapkota