Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Dharahara park being built despite SC fiat

Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, December 12:

The re-construction of the historic site of Dharahara-Sundhara for commercial purposes, which halted after a Supreme Court verdict, has

Kathmandu Metropolitan City leased the 172-year-old site -- the tallest tower and the deepest waterspout in the country -- to a fresh
company called Side Walkers Traders Pvt. Ltd (SWT) for 20 years without inviting tenders. The contract, signed on May 13 by then
mayor Keshav Sthapit and promoter of SWT Sanjib Tuladhar, has left six spaces blank for witnesses' signatures.

The SWT will pay Rs 60,000 per month to KMC for using the spout and the tower, both constructed around 1832 AD, and over five ropani of
open space for commercial purposes.

The KMC had made similar contract with the SWT in June 11, 1998 to lease the area, but the Supreme Court on March 7 last year ordered a
stop to it after lengthy legal action and counter-action, saying that the KMC had no authority to do that. But, KMC again made new contract
with the same party seven months ago. The contract states that SWT would construct a series of shops along the wall and also construct a
garden, souvenir shop, flower shop, communication centre and a restaurant with a pubic toilet, including installing a statue of
Bhimsen Thapa. It will also hold the right to charge people a fee for observing the historic tower. In addition, if SWT gets embroiled in
any legal action again, KMC will compensate it.

Even the concerned department of KMC is ignorant of the "secret" contract. An official at Environment Department of KMC said he only
recently heard about the ongoing construction work. "I never heard about such a contract, though it happens to fall in my department. I
think it is too big an issue for me to talk about. I am surprised," the official said.

The contract paper claims: "The issue was repeatedly discussed in the KMC board and passed". A board member said he had never heard of the
matter in any of the board meetings. Ex-chairman of ward 22 Manik Ratna Sthapit said the issue was never discussed in the boards,
adding that he had refused to toe the line when the ex-mayor asked him to sign on the contract as a witness.

Gautam Dangol, general secretary of local Sankata Sports Club, said that the contract was a clear example of corruption at the top
political levels. "How can anyone so blatantly flout the SC verdict? I asked the ward 22 office about the construction but the office
secretary replied the office has no information about it," he said.
Dangol added the locals are committed to stop the construction at any cost.

The promoter of SWT, Sanjib Tuladhar, could not be reached for comments.

Advocate Bijaya Kumar Basnet said he would file a writ in the SC soon, adding the contract between the ex-mayor and Tuladhar violated
the rights provided by law to the KMC.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Lumbini jamboree all set to kick off

Razen Manandhar
Lumbini, November 29:

Preparations for the much-hyped Second World Buddhist Summit are complete, the organisers said today.

The over 2500 years old shrine has been selected as the venue for the international gathering of eads of states, political leaders, diplomats and religious leaders.
Hotels in Butwal, Bhairahawa and Lumbini bazaar as well as monasteries are all packed with delegates, observers and journalists.
Many are yet to find bedding space. A minor bomb blast, not far away from Lumbini, sent a ripple of fear among participants but they are committed to see the gathering to a successful ending.

"We are ready to welcome the distinguished guests," said host Deep Kumar Upadhyaya, the minister for culture, tourism and civil aviation. Organisers said that the two-day Rupandehi bandh,imposed by the Moist would not affect the gathering. Three working papers -- Indispensability of peace in the present world context, Lumbini's development and international cooperation, and developing Lumbini as a world peace city � will be presented during the three-day event.

Meanwhile, the local administration has picked up some 100 buses of the Western Nepal Bus Entrepreneurs' Association (WNBEA) and Siddhartha Transporters' Committee (STC) to be used during the Summit. The WNBEA and STC said force was used to vacate many vehicles carrying passengers and bringing others from the owners' houses.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Litterbug NGO plays havoc on people

Razen Manandhar
Lalitpur, November 7(2004):

A group of social workers in Sanepa has made up its mind to keep its "VIP area" clean, but at the cost of other people�s cleanliness.

A local non-government organisation, Women�s Initiative for Environment and Development (WEID), has been collecting garbage from around its neighbourhood and the drive has been successful so far. It is, however, dumping the litter by the roadside in Gusingal, next to an old pati, every morning.

A board near the WEID office reads: �Don�t litter here,� and the area looks clean and fresh. Each of the around 300 households in Sanepa, Ward No 2 of the Lalitpur Sub-metropolitan City, pays Rs 50 a month to the NGO to have their garbage collected every day.

Locals of Gusingal have been fighting with rickshaw-pullers who dump the garbage, but in vain. �We failed to stop them from dumping the waste. Moreover, as there isn�t unity among us locals, our protest against the NGO was futile,� a local resident said. '

The Lalitpur Sub-Metropolitan City has placed a container at the spot, but the WEID rickshaws simply litter the ground as the container is too small to take in all the waste. Rag pickers, too, spread the garbage all over the road. Kamal KC, chairperson of WEID, said they have been dumping the garbage at Gusingal to keep the Sanepa area clean. �This is a VIP area and we have to keep it clean,� she said.

When asked what would happen to locals of Gusingal, she admitted that they haven�t been able to manage the garbage properly due to lack of funds. �We have plans of organising awareness programmes, composting and reusing the waste, but we have to dump it there for the time being due to flaws in our organisation,� KC admitted.

She further said that the LSC had not been cooperating with the WEID in managing the garbage. The NGO pays around Rs 3,000 annually to the LSC for a container at Gusingal, but the LSC does not regularly keep the container there. KC further admitted that they have not paid the LSC for a long time now.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Valley stone spouts bear brunt of neglect

Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, October 25 (2004):

Ancient stone spouts in Kathmandu Valley, so useful in the dry season, are in a sorry state for lack of conservation. Negligence apart, some spouts have even turned into private property because of the collusion by government bodies.

There are over 225 stone spouts in Kathmandu alone. Similarly, there are 77 in Bhaktapur, 61 in Thimi, 53 in Patan, and 12 in Kirtipur excluding others in less populated areas. Most were constructed during the Lichhavi and Malla periods, between the 7th to 17th

Sundhara, the biggest of all spouts, is lying dry and useless after a government institution disturbed its pipelines by digging the land behind it to construct a business complex a decade ago.

Yangal Hiti, a Lichhavi era spout, is now the personal property of some local aristocrats. The stone spout at Hadigaon, constructed in the 7th century, stopped working after a concrete building was constructed beside it.

Bhotahiti and Thahiti have remained merely the name of the places because no spout is there now although the names suggest so.

Some of the non-existant or completely destroyed stone spouts are at Dirnarayan Marga, Santi Marga Naxal, Hatisar Sadak, Tindhara Durbar Marga, Nachgahar Jamal, Bhotahiti and Bagh Bazar near Nepal Electricity Authority, a recent study has revealed.

Prakash Chandra Amatya, secretary general of the NGO Forum for Urban Water and Sanitation, said even small attempts to conserve these spouts could be a great relief to the denizens of the Valley in the dry season from November to June as the government's distribution of piped water falls short.

"Apart from their cultural significance, the spouts provide us an abundant quantity of non-stop water. Local efforts to conserve water resources and manage the output can end the shortage," he said.

Now and then, Kathmandu Metropolitan City toots its horn about its commitment to conserve cultural heritage but it has done precious little to conserve these spouts.

Narendra Raj Shrestha, chief of KMC's heritage conservation department said one or two spouts are being conserved after pressure from locals but as such there is no enunciated policy under any work plan to conserve these sources of water.

"It is obviously the duty of KMC. But I don't think we have resources. His Majesty's government should also support us in conservation projects," Shrestha admitted.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Duped whammy: Torture follows trickery

Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, September 25:

A man, whose two sons are with an NGO, Mukti Nepal, was accused of being a Maoist and had to face mental and physical torture when he went to meet his kids.

In December, NGO Mukti Nepal took Pawan Karki (6) and Pravesh Karki (4), sons of a low-income labourer, Mitra Bahadur Thapa, a resident of Jorpati, assuring him that his kids would get free education up to Grade 10 and may get a chance to study aboard if he agreed to present the children as orphans. Since then Thapa was not allowed to see his sons, neither was he informed about their whereabouts.

However, on Wednesday, he decided to visit Mukti Nepal office at Balaju with three sympathisers from CWIN and other organisations. But he was not only denied to meet the children but was accused of being armed Maoist.

He was then handed over to Royal Nepalese Army, who blindfolded him for over 24 hours and grilled him to ascertain the NGO's claim. When nothing incriminating was found, the RNA released him and he was sent to Balaju Police Post. From there, the three who had accompanied him to Mukti Nepal office took him to Kathmandu Chief Administration Office.

He apprised the Chief District Officer of his ordeal and pleaded that he be united with his sons.

CDO Baman Prasad Upadhyaya coordinated with the police leading to the detention of Mukti Nepal activists, Goma Luitel and Dipa Sharma, last nigh. They were, however, later released on the condition that they would return the children to Thapa as soon as possible. Though the younger child is with the NGO, the elder boy has been sent to Spain.

Thapa, who hails from Sankhuwasabha district, told The Himalayan Times that when he went to Mukti Nepal office Goma Luitel called a man, who claimed to be a security personnel.

"He threatened us and sent others who were with me home. I was beaten up and handed over to army, who blindfolded me and took me to an undisclosed place," said Thapa.

In fact, it was Goma and Dipa who handed over Thapa to the army, claiming that four armed Maoists entered her office with threats. She told the RNA that while three escaped, Thapa was apprehended.


Sunday, June 27, 2004

Kathmandu water contains arsenic

Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, June 26[2004]:

It is no news that the capital's water is contaminated. But it has now been revealed that the drinking water supplied by the government contains arsenic. A resident of Tahachal Bal Krishna Shrestha recently decided to get the tap water tested in a laboratory. And he got a major shock when the results showed that water distributed by the Nepal Water Supply Corporation (NWSC) from its deep tube well at Mahendra Ratna Campus contained arsenic.
Government authorities have been silent about arsenic in the capital's water. "I did not expect to find arsenic in the tap water in my area," said Shrestha. He had the water tested in the Environment and Public Health Organisation lab on June 20. The results showed the sample contained 0.02 mg of arsenic per litre of water. The WHO standard is 0.01 mg per litre. It contained an alarming amount of ammonia — 63.5 mg per litre, the amount of which should be limited to 1.5 mg, according to the WHO. Chairman of Consumer Forum Nepal, Harendra Bahadur Shrestha, has planned to take a team to the NWSC on Monday or Tuesday to protest the government's "irresponsible" act. Deputy GM of NWSC, Narendra Bahadur Pradhan, admitted arsenic can be found in two or three sources out of around four dozen deep-wells of NWSC, but "it is not so alarming as to create panic".
[ KATHMANDU, JUNE 27, 2004, Ashad 13, 2061 ]

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Red tapism hindering conservation

Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, June 9:


A recently published survey report has pointed out the lack of the coordination between the government agencies and local communities as the major cause of failure of conservation of monument zones of Kathmandu Valley, named as World Heritage sites by UNESCO. Kathmandu Valley was named as a World Heritage Site, with seven zones -- three Malla palaces, two stupas and two temples in 1979 but was put in the
list of Monuments in Danger in 2003 as the performance of the government was not satisfactory despite UNESCO's repeated requests and warnings.

'An independent survey and evaluation report on the present status of Kathmandu Valley World Heritage Site', prepared by the Planners' Alliance for the Himalayan Allied Regions (PAHAR) has criticised government bodies, local governments and communities for not being committed enough to conserve cultural heritage. The World Heritage Centre has received the report and and the same is expected to be the
basis of discussion of Kathmandu Valley issue in its 28th session to be started next month in Beijing. The report says, with the danger- listing of the valley, it has become clear that the present approach to conservation has not been successful.

The re-evaluation of the overall approach would allow us to prepare a system that would allow for better results, adding, "on the conceptual level, there are three main parameters that need to be considered � commitment, capacity and plan". Kai Waise, team leader of the study, said the policy of the government has been unable to win the hearts of locals insofar as conservation is concerned and thus they are indifferent to their own heritage that needs conserving. "If only 75 percent of the community is convinced, others will naturally come to support government," he added.

The German government-funded report pointed out the shortcomings of the performance of the government and stressed, "The commitment and will of the government to implement plans prepared for the monument zones needs to be revitalised" "The government needs to clearly define the priority they are willing to give to conservation vis-a-vis other urban development sectors. The judicial basis of
conservation, especially in the case of private property within the monument zones, would need to be reviewed and if necessary revised.
And each of the monument zones needs a conservation committee to help implement and monitor conservation efforts," according to the study.

The report also proposed a mechanism of regular meetings: local monthly meetings at each of the seven zones, national quarterly meetings and international annual meetings at central locations to coordinate with UNESCO and donors. Chandra Prasad Tripathi, chief of World Heritage Section at DoA said since the report was "individualized" the department was not obliged to accept it in totol.


Effective conservation The conservation of World Heritage Sites in
Kathmandu has constantly been in the news for nearly a year now. The
Sites are sometimes encroached upon by stubborn locals, while at
others, new concrete structures suddenly emerge in prohibited areas
such as Swayambhu � reportedly in connivance with the local
authorities. Though some of these illegal edifices have been pulled
down by the government in the past, this has not entirely dissuaded
the unscrupulous from trying to find an excuse to erect new ones all
over again. Then the Pratappur Temple at Swayambhu caught fire,
following which the temple collapsed a month or so later. All this
while, authorities and those representing the Temple squabbled over
when and how to begin restoration work. At the same time around
arrived the UNESCO's list of Monuments in Danger � another pointer
that all was not well with the historic monuments. A report now finds
the lack of coordination between government agencies and local
communities as the source of concern in preserving the Sites.

The report also points out that the present conservation efforts have
proved ineffective. There is a greater need than ever before to
evaluate the current approach adopted for the upkeep of these
edifices. Authorities adopting and implementing new strategies for
safeguarding the monuments must understand the inevitable that unless
local participation is encouraged, no amount of extraneous
interventions will yield the desired results. People must be made
aware of the benefit accruing from their involvement in protecting
the monuments. It is these structures that serve as eloquent
manifestation of Nepali culture. But as the trend goes, the locals
lend precious little towards the upkeep of the monuments in and
around the Heritage Sites. Red tapism and cumbersome bureaucratic
procedures which tend to deter the foreign conservation agencies as
well as the NGOs need to be eliminated right away. Unfortunate as it
is, petty interests of some of the stakeholders is also a major
handicap for whatever restoration projects are underway.

Judicial problems have been identified as another obstacle. The
government needs to be clear about the cases involving private
property alongside or within the precincts of the Heritage Sites. It
must define priority for conservation vis-�-vis other urban
development projects. Monitoring and implementing the devised
strategies on a regular basis is no doubt desirable. Those
participating in the deliberations on conservation in Beijing next
month will have to present a practical and acceptable solution to the
UN body concerned in order to give a new lease of life to the
conservation endeavour in Nepal.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

KMC okays over one lakh illegal buildings

Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, May 10:

Over one lakh illegal buildings of the capital will be "legitimatised" soon, thanks to some money-seeking ward chairmen and rumour of nearing local election. A dozen "enthusiastic" ward chairmen are putting pressure in the municipal councils for time so that all the illegal houses in the city are made to pay fat fines. These illegal houses were constructed either by overlooking the regulations or by paying bribes to municipal staff. The concerned officials at Kathmandu Metropolitan City admit that as many as 70 percent of the total number of houses is constructed illegally. Among them, 50 percent are totally against the law while others have made minor changes, which are tolerable. Around 4,000 houses are built in the city each year and it is estimated that there are 180,000 houses in the city, though KMC itself does not have exact data of the houses.
Keshav Dwaj Rana, newly-appointed ward 9 chairman has taken the illegal construction around the city as a major source of income. "We cannot demolish the illegal constructions in the city. So, it is better if we make them all legal, and collect revenue which we need to as election is nearing us," he proposed to the board. Mayor Keshav Sthapit, is said to be “impressed” by the idea and has formed a committee to recommend on this. The team is yet to give green signal to the plan.
Indra MS Suwal, the chief of Urban Development Department and the coordinator of the team, looks cautiously at the proposal. He said that the political decision might boomerang KMC in long term. He said that the decision may give clean chits to wrongdoers but it would not be technically justifiable. "KMC will has to be responsible if such faulty constructions collapse or cause damage to life and property to others," Suwal said.
The recent plan in KMC has created a big fury among the urban planners and seismologists. "It is suicidal. If the KMC makes such a ridiculous change, putting the live of millions in danger, it should be condemned," said Bharat Sharma, senior urban planner and former deputy chief of Department of Urban Development. He said that instead of implementing the Building Code, KMC is regularising all the crimes of the citizens in the petty interest of some revenue," he said.
Similarly, Amod Mani Dixit, the secretary at National Society of Earthquake Technology Nepal said that the regularisation process only promotes others to construct more illegal houses.
"The vulnerability will be there either KMC regularises the illegal houses or not. And it would promote more illegal constructions and those who had followed the regulation would feel being cheated," Dixit said.
[ KATHMANDU, MAY 11, 2004, Baisakh 29, 2061 ]

Sunday, May 02, 2004

Government mulls narrowing down heritage sites

Razen Manandhar

Kathmandu, May 1 (2004):

While heritage experts are clamouring that the government retain the
world title of World Heritage List for Kathmandu Valley, the
government itself is working secretly to narrow down monument zones
in the name of saving the title.

Government officials have come up with a strange proposal
to "safeguard" the Kathmandu Valley UNESCO List of World Heritage in
Danger - self-delist problem-prone areas and only keep the monuments

The Department of Archaeology (DoA) held a seminar last week attended
by selected participants, which busied itself with narrowing down the
monument zones. It proposed to delist all traditional settings of the
residential Newari houses around the historic palaces of Kathmandu,
Patan and Bhaktapur. The proposal also confined it to the temples of
Pashupatinath and Changu Narayan. It proposed naming only the stupas
of Swayambhu and Boudha as monument zones, and not their
surroundings. In any case, these surroundings have been either
deliberately destroyed or are crowded with hundreds of concrete
Tibetan monasteries and walls. The seminar itself evoked differences
of opinion, participants revealed.

DoA officials refused to comment on the proposal but said that it was
a part of the seminar. It is expected that the officials will
formally present the proposal of the narrowed down zones to UNESCO
delegates at the international seminar taking place next week.

The World Heritage Committee, the UNESCO body which lists all the
World Heritage Sites of the world, has nudged the government
repeatedly over the deterioration of monument zones. The
international missions found little or no improvement during their
visits. Ultimately, on June 30, 2003, the Valley was put ultimately
in the list of World Heritage Sites in Danger. The UNESCO document
stated, "The Kathmandu valley zones witnessed uncontrolled urban
development around thereby affecting the traditional heritage, the
landscape and the architectural fabric of the properties."

Keshav Raj Jha, former ambassador to France and representative to
UNESCO, told this daily, "The proposal surprised me. I must say it is
foolish and ridiculous." Jha added it was a case of killing one son
among seven just because he was not doing well, for the sake of
social status. "International convention does not allow it. If it
happens, the World Heritage sites will get confined to a bedroom or a
small temple," he said.

Prof Jiv Raj Pokhrel, heritage expert and president of the Nepal
Engineers' Association, said the government ought to extend the sites
in order to prove to the world that Nepal possesses unparalleled
cultural heritage. "Instead, efforts are being made to minimise it.
We should at least keep the inscribed sites, if we cannot expand
their scope," he said.

Om Chanran Amatya, chairman of Bhaktapur Heritage Groups, said
concrete houses around monument zones had mushroomed around the
zones, probably as a result of bribe-taking by government officials
or municipal bodies.

"It is a dishonour to our heritage," Amatya added.

Not convincing The government's new proposal to narrow down monument
zones in the Kathmandu Valley World Heritage Site � a conglomeration
of seven UNESCO-identified monument zones � has been perceived as an
idea leading to gradual phasing out of the monuments of lesser
opulence but which in fact are recognised by the Western world as the
unique fabric of Nepali culture. It is understandable that the latest
step based on the "zoom-out approach" to concentrate conservation
efforts on any specific monument of international repute within a
zone might as well have been prompted by fund constraints, among
others. But that such a drastic and narrow approach should be adopted
to preserve the Sites � each one often described by experts as an
open museum � especially in the aftermath of the Kathmandu Valley
World Heritage Site being inscribed in the List of World Heritage in
Danger last July, bodes ill for the country's conservation endeavours.

Any heritage site, not to mention Kathmandu Valley, comprises a range
of other components such as its people and their culture, art,
architecture and life style. Take away any one of these and the
mosaic becomes that much more incomplete. Similarly, to ignore the
minor edifices, as the plan appears to have envisaged, which have
served as eloquent expressions of Nepali heritage, is but to render
the landscape of Nepali heritage picture a bit more fuzzy. It is true
that redefining the borders of these monument zones would no doubt
make the task of preserving them better. But the Kathmandu Valley
Preservation Trust and other agencies concerned should not be too
inflexible in their approach while delimiting the borders. This will
offer an excuse to undesirable elements in and around the Sites to
poach on the tangible as well as intangible cultural values embodied
in them.

If, for example, the proposal to delist traditional settings of the
residential Newari houses around the historic palaces of Kathmandu,
Patan and Bhaktapur is true, it is hard to conceive how this will
contribute to the conservation of the core heritage monuments. To
some extent, the peripheral structures have been acting as buffer
zones, as a protective shield until now. With the collateral edifices
about to be delisted, it is hard to visualise how a sustainable
action plan involving different stakeholders can be worked out.
Careful guidelines will have to be chalked out for the local
management committees engaged in conservation. Unless the government
presents a convincing case to the World Heritage Centre in Paris
saying how the latest proposal will help preserve the monuments, it
is unlikely that Nepal will succeed in wooing the Centre to delist
the Valley from the danger list.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Waterless days ahead in Valley

Waterless days ahead in Valley

Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, March 13[2004]:

Water scarcity is something the Kathmanduites have learnt to cope with — admirably or stoically. But when the summer peaks this time, it could perhaps be a different story.
This year, water scarcity has broken all records. In most areas, people used to get water on alternate days but this year they will get water once in four days, and that too, hold your breath, for just an hour.
Mangal Karmacharya of Jyatha is a computer wizard. He wakes up at up at 3.30 am daily for a bucket of water or two from the hand-pump. Like him, all city dwellers lament they are unable to sleep because water is distributed at odd hours - midnight or early morning.
Since last month, water crisis has become a nightmare in Yangal, Om Bahal, Khichapokhari, Duganbahil, Mahaboudha, Ason, Teuda, Jyatha, Chhetrapati, Sorhakhutte, Tahachal and Baneshwor. Tahachal folks haven’t seen a drop for four months. They cough up Rs 300 per month for water — water of sorts.
The Nepal Water Supply Corporation (NWSC) says it is unable to provide more than half the demand during January to April. The total demand for drinking water in Kathmandu is 177 million litres per day but the government provides only 90 million litres. At least 41 million litres of water is lost because of leakage everyday.
Lajana Manandhar, executive director of Lumanti and a member of the NGO Forum for Urban Water and Sanitation, says the government is not serious. “Commitment is lacking. For the last decade, we are hearing about foreign loans, new projects but the water problem is unsolved,” she said. According to NGOs, more than a hundred reports have been tabled on water and sanitation issues but water remains a distant dream.

Supply and demand
• Total water demand - 177 MLD (million litre per day)
• Production capacity - 132 MLD
• Average production - 112 MLD
• Dry Season production - 90 MLD
• Wet Season production - 130 MLD
• Leakage and Wastage - 41 MLD
Source: NWSC, 2001

= = =
Saga of inaction
• 1988 - Consultants from UK identified an inter-basin tunnel from Melamchi valley as the best plan
• 1991 - World Bank/IDA project 8 years project loan for $ 71 million to upgrade distribution network and increase supply in Kathmandu
• 1997 - Donors said that the government should bring in a private operator to manage the water system assets and make this a condition for loans and grants to support the Melamchi investment.
• 1999 - At the end of the WB/IDA project only $ 8.5 million could be spent. WB criticized itself for an inadequate project design.
• 2000 - Urban Water Supply and Wastewater Sector Strategy for Kathmandu Valley released.
• ADB approved a loan of $120 million for Melamchi
• 2001 - Government announced that Melamchi tunnel construction is scheduled to be complete in 2007.
• 2001 - ADB consultant reported on the establishment of the National Water Supply Regulatory Board and Kathmandu Valley Water
Authority (KVWA)
Source: Water Aid Nepal

[KATHMANDU, MARCH 14, 2004, Chaitra 01, 2060

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Vehicle-free New Road on the cards

Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, February 2[2004]

Every street has its day...And so, Kathmandu's busiest street and commercial hub, New Road, which also has the distinction of being the country's first ever two-way road, is waiting for its day to say 'no' to vehicles. The Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) is thinking of converting New Road into an open entertainment-commercial ground where only pedestrians will be allowed.
New Road was built on the rubble of those hundreds of mud-and brick houses that collapsed in the 1934 earthquake. After the road was constructed, it was wider than people had expected. Popularly known as "Elephant Walk", it was named Juddha Sadak after the then prime minister Juddha Samsher, who designed it. "The current chaotic scene in New Road will no longer be there. Instead, it will be an open street where everything except vehicles will be allowed," said Mayor, Keshav Sthapit.
According to the KMC master plan, people wishing to use the main road will have to leave their vehicles in area around Sundhara or RNAC building. From New Road Gate to the Juddha Samsher statue chowk and Basantapur, open bistros, coffee shops and shopping malls in the middle of the road will enliven the atmosphere. Bhugol Park will be expanded to become a part of the new New Road. The building which houses the Nepal Investment Bank will be demolished. However, old landmarks like the pipal tree, newspaper stands around it and the shoe-shine spots will stay. Until 1990, the spot was a popular haunt of politicians and journalists.
Sthapit voiced his dream, "This will be a hub for the youth to spend time with their dear ones and to be mentally rid of violence, terror and negativity. Artistes will perform on the street to amuse passers-by and make the scene more romantic." Ward 23 chairman, Siddananda Bajracharya, said that the local ward chairmen had not been duly informed of the proposed changes. He demanded that the project provide special facilities for locals who would otherwise face practical problems.
Amrit Man Shrestha, a KMC advisor, said that the project would take some time to kick off. "The process is likely to begin with a facelift of old Bhugol Park.”
[ KATHMANDU, FEBRUARY 03, 2004, Magh 20, 2060 ]