Tuesday, October 24, 2000

Govt in search of new alternatives to garbage menace

Razen Manandhar

KATHMANDU, Oct 23 - After being driven out by the local people’s protest at Chovar, the newly proposed landfill site, the government is in search of new possibilities to solve the capitals’s garbage crisis.

Secretary of Sanitation Sub-committee at Ministry of Local Development Bishombhar Lal Pradhan said making a landfill site in these days is an extremely difficult task.

He said, "We know nobody would lay red carpet for piles of garbage, but we are also working hard to meet all the local people’s demands so that we could get cooperation from them in this high-hitting crisis."

Pradhan said that dialogue with the representatives of Chovar as well as other sides is still going on and the ministry would take any step only after the locals are convinced.

Attempts of Ministry of Local Development to solve the problem of garbage once again faced a slap of failure on 18 October, even before the idea took any shape, when the locals of Chovar protested against the government’s proposal.

After being driven out from Guheshowori area, the slope around Chovar gorge was chosen as a short term solution for the bulging garbage which Kathmandu Metropolitan City has been collecting for the last two weeks in its small collection centre.

The government authorities and KMC planned to develop the barren area of Chovar as a landfill site and also to convert it into a composting plant for the over 300 tonnes of garbage the capital produces everyday.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Local Development Ram Chandra Paudel himself took initiative to find a short-term landfill area to solve the crisis immediately.

But, as usual, the locals of Chovar, already hit by the irresistible pollution of Himal Cement Factory, made a series of protests against that proposal.

Mayor of Kirtipur Municipality Hira Kaji Maharjan said, "It is not proper to bring garbage of one place to another. We discussed on this topic and reached a conclusion that allowing any garbage dumping from another area is impossible."

The protests took a political turn when representatives of different parties took steps in forming protest groups, organising mass meetings and issuing press releases.

The locals claim that the controversy of Chovar is merely political and the leaders are "playing games" with the innocent locals.

Now, even the local Nepali Congress leader is not ready to support the government in this issue. NC Chairman of constituency no 7 of Kathmandu, Rajan KC said "Though I am affiliated with the ruling party, I have told the deputy prime minster that I can’t help the government in this issue."
[Kathmandu Tuesday October 24, 2000 Kartik 08, 2057.]

Monday, October 23, 2000

Ancient monument under army protection

By Razen

Only a few among the thousands of ancient monuments in Nepal are fortunate enough to sleep under the army’s protection. The pagoda of Taleju Bhawani, built by King Mahendra Malla in 1564 AD, in the historic royal palace complex of Kathmandu is one among them. The Taleju temple is one of the excellent examples of the Gurkhas’ accountability to their duty.

The security is so tight that even the local citizens are allowed to enter the temple premises only once a year during Dasain.

Even foreign heritage experts and tourists are all barred from enjoying the gift of the eminent monarch. I was lucky enough to grab the opportunity and was delighted to see the monument, enlisted in the World Heritage List, for its commendable and exemplary preservation.

A huge tree was flourishing at the base of the temple — giving a balanced potpourri of natural and cultural heritage site scenario. Adorned with the maker’s statue, the pillars and tiles of the pagoda are covered with lush and healthy grass. The stone steps have caved in and are changing their position and the terracotta doors are turning into semi-abstract modern sculptures. Some bells could produce sound , while others don’t have handles — you need a stone to gong them. The brick pedestals are almost in ruin, yet strong enough to carry the piles of the stale junk, piled up over several years.

The heavily carved wooden doors might have been the best among the pagodas of Kathmandu. Now, the doors display cracks, moss, and insect moles. The struts with images of goddesses (some have got their hands amputated) are entangled with cobwebs and more.

On top of this, the idols in the torana of the highest temple of the capital are missing! I’ll bet, no thief can reach the restricted area without the army’s permission and they can never let a thief climb the elevated temple and steal the idols of archaeological importance. Missing idols no longer make phenomenal news, here. And in the Taleju temple too, the torana idols are not the only stolen images. Asking for proof? Sorry, photography is not allowed in the royal courtyard.

At least one or two among the sixteen surrounding small temples are in good conditions — a breath of satisfaction, indeed.

However, all the shelters made for the gun-carrying army guards next to the temples are safe.

Want to read some ancient inscriptions? Some are in bad shape, some painted with layers of fungi and lying in some odd places. They are not important because the guards can’t read them.

Don’t worry. The temple has been reconstructed and conservationists have even added new touches to its beauty. The carved doors are pierced, nailed down and wired so that electric lamps can illuminate the temple. Some portions of the steps and walls have been cemented and some additional cemented pillars have stood up for electric lights. Summing up the scene, we see only those parts of the courtyard are healthy which have been reconstructed in modern ways for the army. If so, why should we be hypocritical? Can’t we destroy all the monument and convert the whole courtyard into a barrack?

Let me read the stone pillar, now: Those who are responsible for deterioration would face the sins of killing a cow, a teacher, or a Brahmin and so and so... So what? The question goes on.
[Kathmandu Monday October 23, 2000 Kartik 07, 2057.]

Tuesday, October 17, 2000

Kathmanduites, are you ready to pay for your garbage?

Razen Manandhar

KATHMANDU, Oct 16 - After Kathmandu metropolis faced new slap due to the five successive air accidents in the only international airport, Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) has finally taken step to bind its citizens with sanitation fee.

"The Authorised Solid Waste Management Committee of KMC has decided today to levy sanitation fee from each household of the metropolitan city to seek people’s help in minimising the volume of garbage," said KMC Executive Officer Hari Prasad Rimal on Monday.

Till now, the around 15 million citizens of the capital pay nothing to KMC for the management of over 300 tonnes of garbage they produce everyday. Only in some specific areas, local contractors levy fee for managing the litter of certain area who in turn deposit 10 percent of the amount at KMC office.

Whereas, KMC spends around Rs 180 million per year for the city’s solid waste management.

Rimal said that the streets of Kathmandu would be divided in five categories and each would have separate rules for the residents. "According to the amount of solid waste they produce, each of the households and firms will have to contribute from Rs 30 to 1000 every month."

He said the people could have done a lot from local level too, to reduce the daily volume of trash by reusing or destroying the biodegradable materials.

He regretted that KMC has not been successful to draw people’s cooperation in minimizing the amount of garbage. "At least in the days when the whole metropolis is suffering from dumping site crisis, people should have been more cooperative."

On this recent decision, Prem Lal Maharjan, the Secretary General of Consumers’ Forum Nepal, said the forum would welcome this decision if KMC levies the fee based on the citizens’ capacity instead of imposing it harshly.

"KMC should have done this long ago. Now it seems that KMC alone cannot solve this bulging problem. Still, if KMC has determined to do it now, I think the citizens will not deny because this will ultimately be beneficial for themselves in long run," he said.

Meanwhile, the garbage of Kathmandu is being piled up in the collection centre at Teku for four days since the pile has not been taken to Guheshwori as usual due to the bird hazards which recently shaved up in the nearby Tribhuwan International Airport.

The hovering vultures and other birds have posed serious threat to the around 300 aircraft daily, taking off or landing in the airport in past two weeks averting some near-fatal disasters. In last fortnight, five planes have escaped major accidents.

KMC officials said the garbage has not been transported to Guheshori since Friday.

Secretary of Sanitation Sub-Committee Solid Waste Management and Resource Mobilisation Centre, Bishombhar Lal Pradhan said the government is committed to provide KMC with an immediate solution to manage the growing pile of garbage very soon.

In addition, he said the construction of road with garbage as filling material at Guheshwori stopped because of bird menace at the airport which has become a national problem.

"Some people indicated a link between the bird hazards in the airport and the filling of the garbage in Guheshwori. So stopped our work," he said.

However, Pradhan claimed that the road construction at Guheshwori is not only the reason behind the growth of bird activity in the airport. "We have been using garbage as filling material since last six months but the problems has suddenly come up."

He said the current season, river pollution, earthworms, growing residence area at Koteshwore were all to be blamed.

The garbage was being used as filling material for a local road construction at Guheshwori-Jorpati area for last six months.
[Kathmandu Tuesday October 17, 2000 Kartik 01, 2057.]

Wednesday, October 04, 2000

Valley might soon be listed as endangered heritage site

By Razen Manandhar

KATHMANDU, Oct 3 - The recent visit of World Heritage Committee (WHC) officials left the indication that Kathmandu Valley would soon be in the list of endangered World Heritage Sites, conservation experts here said.

Keshab Raj Jha, the ex-ambassador to France and permanent delegate of Nepal to United Nation's Science, Education and Culture Organisation (UNESCO) said that the mission was not here, as it was considered, to negotiate but "only to console us before the real punch comes".

He said, "No matter what a handsome treatment the government and local officials offered to the delegates, only the announcement is awaited to be legalised".

Jha added,"I'm very much disappointed. WHC should not take such a step without Nepal's concordance or having applied to include the site in the list."

The visit of WHC officials was the result of Nepal's negligence toward conservation of the seven monument zones -- Swoyambhu, Pashupatinath, Bouddha, Changu Narayan and the historic palaces of Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur -- which were enlisted as World Heritage Sites in 1979.

Right from 1993, WHC reminded Nepal of the deteriorating monuments. First, there was a 16-point notice and after five years, a joint mission of UNESCO handed Nepal another 55-point recommendation in 1998.

Since Nepal's performance was unsatisfactory, WHC decided last year to send this mission for soliciting a political commitment from the head of the state down to local mayors. It was understood that the mission's report in the coming session of WHC in Crains, Australia would determinate the fate of the Kathmandu Valley -- whether or not to put it on the infamous list of endangered monuments.

Presently, there are 27 properties included on the list of World Heritage in Danger, out of the total 630 monuments orldwide.

Chief Research Officer of Department of Archaeology (DoA) Chandra P Tripathi said nothing could be said before the formal announcement to be made in December. However, our representative will strongly protest such blemishing decision, if made, he said.

Still, he admitted that due to lack of coordination among the bodies concerned, the implementation of laws to protect ancient monuments was poor.

The mission remained tight-lipped during their five-day visit. Later, at a press meet last Thursday, the president of WHC Abdelaziz Touri appreciated the degree of awareness among the citizens but he warned Nepal of "serious loss of the authentic urban fabric" indicating rapid and haphazard urbanization which is against the norm of world heritage site.

In addition, they showed the benefits if Kathmandu would be included in the endangered list, arguing that it would open door to further technical assistance.

Kathmandu's Acting Mayor said that the delegates were here only for formality. He said, "Instead of demanding our commitment, they tried to convince us that they were not going to delist the Kathmandu Valley and being enrolled in the endangered list would draw assistance from the international concerned agencies."

He was specially annoyed that before receiving the delegates, the government bodies did not coordinate to present the whole country's voice to the mission.

Asking for anonymity, a DOA official said, "Some board members in WHC are trying to slap the endangered list on Nepal and make way for drawing international donations in the name of conservation to this third world country."

Till September 2000, a total of US dollars 240,374 has been provided as international assistance. Out of which US dollars 62,601 (26 percent) has been 'utilised' to undertake UNESCO expert missions to the Kathmandu Valley.

"This circumstance itself is an insult for the whole nation," said Cultural expert Satya Mohan Joshi. "We can't expect better future where the officials spend much of their time flying in foreign countries than taking the situation seriously."

Raju Rokka, the manager of Kathmadu Valley Preservation Trust, an INGO presently renovating ancient monuments, went to the extent of approving the WHC's probable step. He said, "The site should be kept in the endangered list for several years so as to teach the government officials a lesson."

On the other hand, Architect Dr Sudarshan Raj Tiwari said that WHC would not place Kathmandu Valley on the list before 2004. "They might include it but not immediately," he said.
[Kathmandu Wednesday October 04, 2000 Aswin 18 2057.]