A space to remember past injustices, heal and learn from Nepal’s armed conflict; and also serve as a space in which to facilitate ongoing multi-dimensional peacebuilding efforts & learning within Nepal, in the region, and even worldwide. With this initiative, we are aiming to build a durable peacebuilding center by the end of 2025.
Sita (pseudonym) lives on the outskirts of a jungle in Madyabindu, Nawalpur district, and is almost always drunk. Her husband abandoned her, and she now lives alone. During the war, the army killed Sita’s daughter, Tara Devi, near her home, accusing her of being from the rebel group. Her daughter was only 18 at the time. Sita has not been able to move on from her pain even after almost 20 years. She turns to alcohol as a way of coping with her loss.
Nearly 3 years ago, Nagarik Aawaz met Sita. She was suffering from multiple mental health disorders. She was identified as a lunatic by her community.
With Nagarik Aawaz’s efforts, she is learning to deal with her loss and building stronger relationships with her community. Sita has preserved a diary that her daughter wrote, and wants to keep it safe with Nagarik Aawaz. It is important to Sita that her daughter’s memory be preserved. Despite her mental health problems, she has now found meaning in the loss she has suffered.
As a result of the armed conflict, Nepal has thousands of individual stories of loss, grievances, and resilience. These memories are being lost. Owing to Nepal’s unrealized transitional justice process so far, there are past histories that remain troubled.
Over 21 years of providing solace and strength to people affected by the war, Nagarik Aawaz has inspired hundreds of Nepali youth peacebuilders. This has enabled Nagarik Aawaz to build unique relationships, trust, and experience to preserve the memories of people like Sita.
In 2017 Nagarik Aawaz with Founder Rita Thapa, had a vision of creating a place where among other things Nagarik Aawaz could document and gather these recollections and experiences from the past as memorials. By doing this, it honors those who have suffered injustices owing to the armed conflict as well as establishes a safe space for education and the institutionalization of peace work within Nepal and beyond. Nagarik Aawaz has started working on making this vision a reality.
Nearly one hectare of land in Sehari Madyabindu is being used to construct Padmalaya- The Nagarik Aawaz’s Peace Center. The Sanskrit word Padmalaya means “home of the lotus.” The lotus emerging from sullied waters symbolizes resilience and harmony despite the troubled and traumatic past. There are countless heroes that have survived Nepal’s armed conflict and who have upheld love, peace, and compassion. Padmalaya aims to preserve these past memories for moving forward.
Amidst widespread paddy fields of the Terai, hedges and trees demarcate the plots, extending up to the banks of the Narayani River on the south. These paddy fields are linked with meandering earthen roads. At junctions, the traditional homes of the Tharu communities are scattered along the road. These clusters are generally surrounded with large fruit bearing trees.
The project site falls under the jurisdiction of the Madhyabindu Municipality with an area of 13,600 sq.m. (1.36 ha.) of agricultural flat land, the Narayani river to the south and the Chitwan National Park on the adjacent bank. The site itself lies within the buffer zone of the National Park. Access to the site is linked by an earthen road on the northern side that has branched some 8 km from the Mahendra Highway. There is a secondary road on the eastern side of the plot.
The site vista is encompassed by fields all around, canopies of the national park jungle can be seen in the distance towards the south. The site is segregated into two parts by an irrigation canal, where the upper half on the north and the lower part to the south have a level difference of approximately 1 meter.
A storm water channel runs along the eastern boundary that spills out into the Narayani River. It is also worth mentioning the roadside storm drains on the north and east sides that serve the roads as well. The land accommodates two mature ‘simal’ (bombax ceiba) trees.
The prevailing winds are from the east in the summer months and from the west during the winter months. The maximum nominal wind velocity in the region is roughly 17.6 km/h with an average 12.2 km/h throughout the year. The warmest average temperature is about 29.9° C (36.6° C maximum) and the coolest average temperature being 15.0° C (7.4° C minimum). The maximum precipitation recorded is 416mm of rain in the month of July while the minimum is 1mm in February.
The recent Transport Master Plan being prepared by the Madhya Bindu Nagarpalika will likely result in an expansion of the two adjacent roads on the north and east sides by 17m and 3.5m respectively, that would result in a reduction of the site area. With this and the new setbacks set for 6m on the north side and 1.5m on the remaining side will define the placement of the buildings. With the plans for road expansion, one could xpect a sharp influx of traffic and tourism in the area, which will lead to settlements sprouting in the neighborhood.
The Tharus inhabit the surroundings. They root back to their tribal way of living which can be observed in the construction of their homes. Their structures are simple and are designed to support their livelihood. The houses are constructed in bays of timber posts supporting the high ridged roofs. Wattle and daub and sundried bricks are generally used for the walls with low heights. It can be observed that the design of the structures address the hot tropical climatic conditions with high ridged roofs with small openings at the gable ends. The structures feature earthy tones of colors.
Besides, the Tharus prefer rich primary colors for their costumes and artworks. The artworks and decoration motifs are composed of simple geometric shapes and patterns which are simple interpretations of the forms found in nature and their surroundings.
The future transport master plan for Madhya Bindu Nagarpalika foresees a 30 meter wide ring road within its municipality that runs along the northern boundary of the PBM-LC compound. Thus, in anticipation of increased traffic and construction activity along the widened road a more “Inward looking” concept for the Centre seems to be appropriate.
The double storey high façade at the north of the property will serve as a visual and acoustic barrier from the road. This facilitates a more peaceful and controlled interior of the PBM-LC premises, allowing to conduct its activities with relative privacy.
The interior of the premises is expected to support a diverse selection of activities , some involving the local community, some for academia and visiting faculty of peace studies, as well as daily visitors arriving to view and enjoy the museum and the memorial site.
While designing, attention has been given to a practical separation of the above mentioned user groups to ensure that these activities can function independently, unhindered by other activities.
The open space at the south of the property is intended to remain agricultural land. A waste water management system has been planned in the south east corner of the property.
MOOD AND AMBIENCE
The mood of the Center intends to reflect humility and harmony with its surroundings. The moods and ambience has been derived from the natural built environment in texture, color, form, and shape. The design has also been adapted to the local climatic conditions seeking ample cross ventilation. The locally used techniques and materials such as timber/ bamboo shading elements and mud plastered walls intend to make the buildings merge locally and facilitate local employment owing to ongoing maintenance activities.
Simple modern technology has been incorporated to assist the vernacular construction techniques. The use of modern and readily available materials have been selected (in texture and color) to be in line with the intended general mood.
Locally produced and energy saving CSEB brick walls have been chosen for the exterior and interior walls of the building. Auroville Earth Institue states that the carbon emission in the production of CSEB is 12.5 times lesser than the fired country bricks in the region. Likewise, the cost comparison in the context of Auroville states that a finished meter cube of CSEB masonry is always cheaper than fired bricks: 19.4% less than country fired bricks and 47.2% less than kiln-burnt bricks (March 2004). However, the coloration and compaction of these blocks will need to be finetuned and experimented. This needs to be included in the construction time frame. CSEB production could offer ongoing employment for many in the surrounding community.
Rammed earth walls have been chosen for the two pavilions under the canopy meant for community gatherings. These are planned to have distinct bands of natural coloration. Pitched Roof of locally available light roofing material with thermal insulation has been selected.
Given the ecologically sensitive location in the vicinity to the national park and the Narayani river, waste management is an important issue. The wastewater is to be directed through A.B.R. tanks and into a reed beds for filtration before being allowed to enter the existing canals. Natural water retention pockets have been foreseen in the central area around the communal space and the library.
Similarly, an area for composting of organic waste has been foreseen within the premises. Containers for the segregation of recyclables and nonrecyclables are to be placed strategically around the premises especially in the kitchen area.
The paths of the two existing canals within the property have been allowed to flow unhindered, with their course slightly relocated.