Gaping lack of concernThe injuries and deaths due to open manholes and drains can easily be avoided
As monsoon has stalled over the Bay of Bengal, delaying the rainy season and worrying farmers, it has given residents of Kathmandu a short reprieve from a perennial seasonal problem. But as monsoon is set to be back on track and arrive at the Valley sometime next week, the issue of street flooding is sure to keep denizens on high alert. That is because, in recent years, the distress caused by flooding and murky roads has been drastically and darkly intensified due to the fact that people have died—unable to tell a shallow pool from an open manhole or drain. That this has been a yearly issue which the city authorities have failed to address is shameful.
We already have one early victim this year in Shubhechchha Bhatta, who fell into an open manhole three weeks ago when returning home in her scooter at night. Bhatta is one of countless who fall into such open drains and are lucky enough to survive, though their days of hospitalisation and treatment should be the responsibility of city authorities for failing in their basic duty of protecting their residents. However, some are not that lucky and pay for the authorities’ error with their life. In July 2017, Binita Phuyal, aged 12, perished after falling into a drain and having the current sweep her away in Tarkeshwar Municipality in the Valley. And last year, 37-year-old yoga instructor and cycling enthusiast Shyam Shrestha died after his cycle fell into an open drain in Kirtipur. The monsoon rains just add one more challenge for people attempting to navigate through bad roads. But the deaths, and the countless non-fatal accidents, could have been prevented if the concerned authorities had covered up the drains and manholes on time.
Indeed, Kathmandu’s roads are in a constant state of repair in certain areas. And, with many different projects and departments digging up and repairing roads at different times, it is easy to see where missteps may occur to cause the many potholes, open manholes and open drains. Moreover, with the end of the fiscal year occurring in June-July every year, and Nepal’s penchant for leaving a bulk of the capital expenditure for the last few months, roads get dug up at a higher frequency right around the start of monsoon. Some road works are then left incomplete, with contractors citing the government’s directive to halt work during monsoon, or citing the rains slowing down work. This trend is ridiculous and has to stop. Concerned authorities must direct projects and departments to complete their work on time so that such backlog does not occur around monsoon season every year. When the Post approached concerned authorities, few specifics were forthcoming, except assurances that all wards have been directed to cover open manholes and drains. This ad hoc method of pushing directionless directives at the last moment needs to stop. A systematic plan needs to be in place that holds each project responsible for closing such holes after work is completed, and for putting up prominent warning signs where open holes are inevitable.