Cartographic center turns into tourist spot

BHAKTAPUR, DEC 21 - At a height of 2,200 m, the Nagarkot View Tower is currently a popular tourist destination for all those who come to this hill station. That was not the original purpose of the tower, however. The tower was constructed for a more serious purpose, that of drawing up cartographic maps of Nepal, and lack of concern by authorities has meant the tower could soon lose this purpose, and in turn, affect the drawing and geological survey of Nepal as a whole.

According to Niraj Manandhar, chief survey officer at the Department of Survey, if the Trigonometrical Station, which is the tower’s original name, is not conserved, it will affect the maps and the border of the country. The Department of Survey is responsible for the tower’s maintenance, as well as to put a check on people climbing it, but government apathy has meant it has not been able to deter tourists or to maintain the tower.

The tower is vital for cartographers in Nepal as it is the fundamental point from where the country’s borders are measured. Nepal’s international borders are drawn by taking this tower as the central point. “This tower has played a vital role in national security,” Manandhar said.

Even the lock that is supposed to secure entry to the tower has been broken. Nearby, benches have been placed for people to sit on, and there are no means to dispose waste. Small restaurants dot the area around the tower, and people can be seen regularly climbing the tower for a better view of the Valley. Government apathy to the tower is so evident that even a barbwire around the tower can deter visitors, but that has not been installed.

The tower’s construction was initiated in December 1970 on the occasion of the 29th birthday of the late-king Birendra, and operations finally began in 1973. The tower uses several geographical and cartographical instruments to determine Nepal’s exact position and boundaries in the world. Besides the old survey methods, new techniques such as global positioning system (GPS) are also employed at the tower.

Bishnu Kumar Neupane of the Department of Survey said that cartographic and geographical instruments such as trigonometrical bases and GPS tracking devices have been employed at several tourist places that offer a view of the Himalayan ranges. The Nagarkot tower, besides these devices, is also used for tracking weather changes around the country.

Due to the lack of information about the sensitive area, Nagarkot Naaldum Tourism Development Committee had proposed in a letter that it would manage the area near the tower. But after they were informed about the nature of the tower, the tourism professionals have stopped construction works in the area. The committee had asked permission from the Survey Department to construct a garbage collection centre and a parking area.

Rajaram Chhatkuli, director-general at the Department of Survey, said that due to Nepal’s unstable condition, the department was unable to carry out any constructive work at the tower. “We have sent a letter to the police and the district administration requesting them to stop people from climbing the tower but they have been unable to stop them.”

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