2019 passed with KMC not meeting any of its promisesPotholes were not fixed, garbage lay strewn, and air pollution levels were left uncontrolled—Kathmandu was not the city authorities had promised it would be.
And like every year, it was the people who had to pay the price for the government’s incompetence. As the year comes to a close, the Post puts together five plans the authorities had promised to deliver, but failed to complete.
Our roads are still riddled with potholes and pits
The Office of the Prime Minister and his Council of Ministers in November last year had directed the concerned ministries to expedite the work of refilling the potholes on the major roads in the capital city within two months. Bishnu Rimal, chief political advisor to Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, had announced he would form a coordinated mechanism to give instant direction and feedback for the latest update of road maintenance but his claim remained limited to talk only.
And this was not the first time such announcements have been made. In July 2017, the then Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba had also issued a directive to concerned authorities to make all the roads of Kathmandu pothole-free within 15 days. Two years have passed since the declaration, and damaged roads have still not been repaired.
Streets in Gaushala, Chabahil, Sankhamul, Gothatar, Maitidevi, Dhalku, Samakoshi, Kupondole, and Old Baneshwor are littered with potholes. According to traffic police data, potholes and pits are one of the leading causes of road accidents. “We get numerous complaints regarding road accidents due to potholes on the road. The bad condition of the road is also one of the main causes of traffic congestion,” said SSP Bhim Prasad Dhakal.
Open drains (and their smell) continue to be a big problem
Every monsoon, Kathmandu Valley’s drainage problem makes headlines. In many parts of the Valley, such as Putalisadak, Maitighar, Tinkune, Maitidevi, Jamal, Kumaripati, Lagankhel, Ekantakuna, Jawalakhel, sewage drain overflows and floods the streets during the monsoons. Due to the city’s unmanaged drainage system, four motorcycles parked in Kwalku in Lalitpur were swept this year. In June, Subhechha Bhatta fell into a manhole along with her scooter, in Chakupat, Lalitpur, injuring herself. In spite of such news coming in, in the past twelve months, neither the Kathmandu Metropolitan City nor the Lalitpur Metropolitan City did anything to resolve drainage problems, although both mayors of Kathmandu and Lalitpur—Bidya Sundar Shakya and Chiribabu Maharjan—made commitments to solve the problem within a year.
Air pollution levels in Kathmandu were left unchecked
At the Mayor’s Summit in October last year, the Valley’s 18 municipalities’ mayors vowed to fight air pollution in Kathmandu Valley. Nothing till date has come of it.
As part of cleaning dust from the roads, Kathmandu Metropolitan City purchased five broomer machines nine months ago, and now an additional two broomer machines have been added to its list, after the Chinese city of Chengdu gifted them to city officials to clean the city roads. However, most of these machines are limited to cleaning VIP areas, neglecting dusty areas like Chabahil, Gaushala, Sitapaila, Banasthali and many inner parts of the Kathmandu that are reeling under uncontrolled dust pollution.
Meanwhile, this year the Department of Environment and Metropolitan Traffic Police Division also could not make effective surveillance of emission tests of old vehicles running in Kathmandu, which are also partly responsible for the Valley’s increasing air pollution.
Amid rising air pollution levels, came Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s comment which made national headlines In the first week of May, Oli publicly claimed that Kathmandu “now has become a dust-free city” and nobody needs to wear masks in the Valley. Suffice to say, the statement was received with a lot of social media ridicule.
Lack of traffic lights and zebra crossings are still killing people
Maintenance and installation works of traffic lights was negligible this year as well. As was the repair works of faded zebra crossings in Kathmandu valley. These are the basic infrastructure that signify road safety of pedestrians and drivers, but the government has paid little heed to these issues for nearly two decades now.
The Department of Roads in the first week of May announced that it would install smart traffic lights in different places: one in Singha Durbar, one in Bagbazar, two in Padmodaya and three at Tinkune. An additional two in Old Baneshwor and Mitra Park, with an estimated cost of Rs 10.9 million, were also supposed to be installed. Six months ago, there were talks to install another eight traffic lights in the remaining areas in the Capital. The plans never materialised.
Traffic police say if all traffic lights are restored at all major junctions and arteries, 50 percent traffic can be reduced in the Capital. According to the Kathmandu Walkability Study-2018, conducted in 35 different sections of the metropolis last year, 60 percent of the 107 zebra crossings in the Capital have already faded away, and 80 percent of the roads do not even have zebra crossings.
The only repair work the government took upon this year was during the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping on the second week of October. For the visit, all roads labelled for VVIPs were asphalted, and zebra crossings were repainted. But the rest of the roads in the Capital are in the same condition as they were last year, if not worse.
Garbage, garbage everywhere
The past year was not easy for anyone who walked along the roadsides, crossing different junctions in Kathmandu. People were compelled to wear masks not only to protect themselves from the increasing dust pollution but to avoid the stench that was emitting from the mounds of garbage thrown haphazardly in the city.
When Mayor Bidya Sundar Shakya took office, he had promised he would clear Kathmandu streets’ garbage in his first 100 days. That was over two years ago, and the garbage problem has not been dealt with.
The city was also not able to find an alternative landfill site. Sildole, which has been used to dump the city’s garbage for 14 years now, has been filled over its capacity. Because of this, protests had been launched by Sisdole locals, demanding compensation from the government for forcing them to live in such vile air.
As a result of the protests, garbage collection had been stopped across the Valley for weeks. A short-term alternative was fixed, but a sustainable solution is nowhere near sight. The construction of a new landfill site in Banchare Dada also didn't see any progress.