By Alissa Greenberg
June 16, 2015

Several Nepalese World Heritage sites previously closed due to earthquake damage were reopened on Monday, the result of nearly two months of work stabilizing structures and removing rubble.

But some United Nations officials expressed concerns that some buildings—damaged during the April earthquake that killed more than 8,700 people—were still too unsteady, the New York Times reports.

Nepal’s tourism secretary, Suresh Man Shrestha, nonethess told the Times “The treasures of the Nepalese economy should not remain closed forever.”

More than 700 monuments in Kathmandu and its environs were damaged in the quake, and the cost of rebuilding is estimated in the tens of millions of dollars. Some of the most notable reopened monuments include the plazas and courts of Kathmandu’s Durbar Square, as well as the central squares of both the ancient city of Bhaktapur (the entirety of which is a UNESCO site) and Patan, a traditional center for handicrafts.

Christian Manhart, the head of UNESCO Kathmandu told the Times that his organization had encouraged authorities to delay the reopening because of concerns that some buildings were still unsafe or vulnerable to looting.

“At Kathmandu Durbar Square there is the huge palace museum—one very big building which is totally shaky,” he said. “The walls are disconnected from one another so this big wall can fall down at any moment.”

In response, Nepal’s Tourism Department said that museum would not reopen and that other safety measures, such as providing helmets to visitors, would mediate these concerns.

But Manhart said that even allowing tourists in proximity to unstable buildings could pose a risk. He also told the Times that Archaeology Department director general Bhesh Narayan Dahal implied to him that he was under pressure to reopen damaged monuments in order to collect entrance fees to support reconstruction efforts.

Dahal was not available for comment.

[NYT]

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