UNESCO withdraws from restoration of Jagannath and Gopinath Temples at Hanumandhoka Durbar Square World Heritage Site


UNESCO regrets to withdraw from the restoration of Jagannath and Shree Krishna Mahavishnu (Gopinath) Temples damaged by the 2015 earthquake at Hanumandhoka Durbar Square World Heritage Site.

Christian Manhart, UNESCO Representative to Nepal expresses: “UNESCO is saddened to withdraw from the restoration project of these two important temples within the Kathmandu Valley World Heritage Site. This was part of the wider program for assisting the Nepalese government in carrying out the post-earthquake rehabilitation of its built heritage in accordance with international conservation standards”. 

The work was being implemented by UNESCO, in close partnership with Nepal’s Department of Archaeology, and funding from the Japanese Government and Nepal Investment Bank Limited. Damage assessment drawings, architectural documentation, structural analysis, archaeological research of foundations, and detailed retrofitting designs of the Temples were prepared by a team of local conservation experts, in close consultation with the Department of Archaeology, ward officials, local communities and priests. The retrofitting of these temples is of a complex technical nature, as only parts of the buildings are damaged. In the case of Gopinath temple, it will be necessary to support the entire structure during the repair of the ground floor walls.  UNESCO’s design intended to conserve the original structure and elements, as well as strengthen both buildings to make them resilient to future earthquakes.  

On 10 December 2018, restoration work commenced on-site. However, on 23 December, the work was placed on hold, due to pressure citing the wish of some locals for the temples to be restored through local funds alone and without international assistance. In response, UNESCO arranged a series of meetings with local community members, the Ministry of Culture Tourism and Civil Aviation, Nepal Reconstruction Authority, Department of Archaeology, and Member of Province 3 Parliament Rajesh Shakya, and continued work on 15 May 2019. 

However, threats were made by some locals a few days later to the restoration workers on-site. UNESCO therefore decided that the project had to be closed. All documentation for the restoration work has been handed over to the care of the Department of Archaeology for completion according to international standards required for World Heritage Sites. 

The World Heritage Committee taking place at that moment in Baku, Azerbaijan, expressed on 4 July 2019 concerns with the progress made in the rehabilitation of the Kathmandu Valley’s heritage. It decided however not to inscribe the Kathmandu Valley on the World Heritage in Danger List, and to give the government one more year to improve. UNESCO reiterates its readiness to support the restoration and safeguarding of Nepal’s cultural heritage sites.