Monday, July 17, 2000

Gongabu Bus Park is still on the first gear

By Razen Manandhar
KATHMANDU, July 16 - The construction work at Gongabu Bus Park is yet to begin, a month after its much hyped handover by Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) to Lhotse Multipurpose Pvt Ltd (LM).

On May 15, KMC had handed over the 161-ropani (82,000 sq km) Gongabu park, at north-west of Kathmandu to a newly formed private company LM for 45 years. According to the terms of the KMC-LM agreement, the bus park will be developed into a well-managed bus terminal with modern facilities added to the existing facility.

The immediate need is to build 26 tellers, clean the shrubs, repair lightings and provide passengers with up-to-date information on the arrival and departure of buses.

Now, about 150 buses use the ill-maintained bus park and over 15,000 passengers visit it each day.

"It's time LM showed some evident construction works at the park," says KMC Under Secretary Surya Silwal on Friday. He argued that one month is long enough to start the construction and sort out the past mismanagement.

LM signed an agreement with KMC to develop the bus park area into a modern complex within five years at a cost of Rs 327 million. There will be a petrol pump, workshop, garage, supermarket, hotel, additional parking space, first-aid centre, restaurants, and a green park within the bus terminal.

"We have a dream," says Gehendra Bahadur Karki, the chairman of ML . "We will make this bus park a model for the whole country." LM is to pay an annual Rs 5.1 million in lease to KMC which will then increase every year. As the first instalment, KMC has received revenue of Rs 1.7 million from LM.

The park was set by the Japanese government at a cost of Rs 260 million in 1994 and handed over to Nepal. The ownership was eventually transferred to KMC which additionally spent Rs 33.7 million to expand it. Before the handover, the Japanese Embassy objected to KMC's plan to transfer it into a private company. It wrote a letter to the Finance Secretary on April 10, asking it to intervene. In response, Ministry of Local Development (MLD) urged KMC to stop the handover, quoting a Japan-Nepal agreement which requires the two sides to agree in case of reconstruction. The Parliament's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is currently probing the case.

Kathmandu Mayor Keshab Sthapit urges that despite such "minor problems which are common in Nepal", construction of the bus park will go ahead. He said KMC has spent around Rs 4 million every year in maintaining the bus park. "The private party now is giving us 5.1 million. That means, in all KMC will gain Rs 9.1 million every year," he says.

Kathmandu's Deputy Mayor Bidur Mainali himself is not fully convinced, however. "I am not against privatisation. But the procedure must be transparent."

But Under Secretary Silwal claims that every step of KMC is transparent and regular. An MLD official said that the Ministry is not satisfied with the way the Mayor has moved ahead with the transfer. "He has neglected legal aspects," he says.
[Kathmandu Monday July 17, 2000 Sharawan 02, 2057.]