By PR Pradhan
Kathmandu Valley is an ancient city which has a rich culture and religious heritages. It is needless to describe the glorious history of the Valley, unfortunately, in the name of modernization and continuous human encroachment, we have destroyed this nature gifted City and the beautiful gifts it has gainedfrom history. This is a great misfortune for Kathmandu Valley.
The uncontrolled flow of the people, unplanned settlements, violation of laws about construction of infrastructure, act of non-visionary political leaderships, etc. have converted this historical Valley into an ugly concrete jungle.
Our history goes back to the ancient era with the BagmatiRivar civilization, but holy Bagmatiriver has been converted into an open drainage to discharge all the wastes, including human wastes into it. Of course, in the early days or say until the panchayat days, people were not allowed to discharge human wastes directly into the rivers. Every householdwere told to have safety tanks for this purpose and such a law of the government was monitored closely. Agriculture fields were prohibited for settlement. Fertile areas including those agro-land on the bank of the rivers – were not allowed for settlement. There were two reasons for this act of the government – one, geologically, such land were unfit for construction of houses [not to forget, in the 2015 earthquake, constructions in swampy areas were heavily damaged in comparison to other areas], two, the idea was not to destroy the agricultural fields which were directly related to agricultural production that provided food for the people of this City. Of course, Kathmandy Valley is a very sensitive earthquake zone. Therefore, it was not allowed to construct buildings above five stories. Earlier to this, there was a provision for not constructing tall buildings higher than the “Gajurs” [tallest point] of the nearby temples.
Along with the introduction of multiparty democracy, land mafias emerged and they were so powerful that the lawmakers and ministers were under their grip and the existing laws were violated, as a result, the Valley has become the most hazardous area in the entire nation.
We are talking about a smart city, but we have not given priority to open spaces, jungles and gardens inside the city. Rural areas in the Valley have also been transformed into the concrete jungle, but one can hardly find an open space, common gardens and jungles in these extended cities. Even if there is just two or three aanas of land, which is a very tiny plot tall buildingsare found to be erected in such a small ardea of land. There is no concept of keeping any open space even in these extended cities. Priority is given only for the construction of residential buildings without the facilities of drainage, electricity, drinking water pipelines, car parking area and other such amenities. More serious to note, where do the people take shelter if there occursa natural calamity or a devastating earthquake like in 2015! The metropolis and municipalities approve the house construction maps without ensuring such essential requirements.
The Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) has become very congested. The government is thinking of shifting the domestic airport to a place nearby the Valley. If the rulers and planners had thought about the future of air traffic after 20 years or 30 years, they would have allotted space for the construction of another airport within the Valley before things came to the present chaotic state. Till some years before, we know that the American mission was operating its stall aircrafts from Swichatar. Now, it has become a residential area. Also, there was enough land in Budhanilkantha, Chhobhar and Bhaisepati to construct domestic airports. If the government would have occupied these lands for future need, TIA would not have suffered from air traffic jam that it faces today.
Some revolutionary leaders such as KeshabStihapit and BaburamBhattarai wanted to expand the Kathmandu roads. They forcefully demolished constructions alongside the roads in the name of expansion. Why didn’t they think about diverting uncontrolled migration of people to other areas by keeping Kathmandu Valley as the country’s heritage capital? Only the expansion of roads is not the solution. Talking about the Indian capital New Delhi, there are two Delhis – Old Delhi and New Delhi. Old Delhi is the heritage city whereas New Delhi is a planned city having enough gardens, jungles inside the city and wide roads. If our revolutionary leaders had also followed the same, we could easily have developed planned cities nearby the Kathmandu Valley.
If we travel to Hong Kong or London, there also we can find narrow roads and streets, however, the government has managed them properly. It makes clear that visionary management is important along with a revolutionary attitude. Unfortunately, our leaders have failed to keep alive Kathmandu Valley, hence, now Kathmandu is a dead Valley.
A dead Valley
By PR Pradhan