Seven of City’s nine broomer machines are broken as upkeep is not a priorityThe machines were bought in 2019. Planners and environmentalists say Kathmandu Metropolitan City should not be shirking its basic responsibility under lame excuses.
Two years ago before the Covid-19 pandemic hit Nepal, huge broomer machines were to be seen trudging along Kathmandu roads in early mornings and late evenings. Such scenes gradually decreased and completely halted after the pandemic shut down the country.
After over a year and a half, a sense of pre-pandemic normalcy has returned. Now most of the roads of Kathmandu are full of dust due to lack of maintenance, late monsoon rains and perpetual construction activities. But the broomer machines have yet to return to duty.
City officials said they have nine broomer machines in total, but only two are functional and the rest are broken.
“Seven of the machines need repairs and the brushes of most of them need to be changed,” said Deputy Superintendent of City Enforcement Division, Purna Chandra Bhatta, who is also the in-charge of the broomer machines.
When the Post asked Hari Bahadur Shrestha, chief of the Environment Division of the City why are the roads not being cleaned, he said the broomer machine drivers are out of the Valley to celebrate the festivals and have not returned yet.
“Once they come back, we will operate all the machines,” said Shrestha.
City planners say this is a very ‘irresponsible remark’ from a responsible official.
“That’s a lame excuse and an irresponsible remark,” said urban planner Suman Maher Shrestha. “I don’t expect responsible officials to make excuses like the machines are broken or the drivers are away. It is their primary duty to keep the city clean,” said Shrestha.
He said Kathmandu roads are full of dust and dirt because ‘wrong people are in the wrong positions.’
Dust has become synonymous to Kathmandu for the past few years, especially after the government launched a road widening drive in 2011. Every winter the air quality index in Kathmandu soars to hazardous levels and many times the Capital has been listed as the most polluted city in the world.
Of the nine broomers the City has, seven are Italian. Five Dulevo-6000 machines were bought in 2019 at the cost of Rs 108 million. Later two more were bought from the same company.
Inaugurating the broomer machines on March 27 in 2019, Mayor Bidya Sundar Shakya had promised that the city would be ‘dust free.’
After the machines were deployed in the Capital’s roads, the City used it only in the VVIP areas.
In the same year, the Chinese government had gifted two more broomers but the City could not operate them for months citing technical issues and delay by the government in providing license plates.
“The City spent so much money on the machines but when they are not used properly that does not make any sense,” said Shrestha. “What an irony that the machines that are supposed to collect road dust are themselves collecting dust and rusting away?”
The City still deploys 750 sweepers in a daily basis to clean the road at Ratnapark, Lainchaur, Bagdurbar, Old Baneshwar, Putalisadak, Tripureshwar, Bhadrakali and other parts of the City but has been operating just two machines.
“We could not use all broomer machines because it rained continuously until October and now they need repairs. We will soon fix them and they will be back in duty,” said Ishwar Man Dangol, spokesperson at the City.
But city planners and environmentalists say the city should not be shirking its basic responsibility under lame excuses.
“Given the dusty conditions, Kathmanduites will be wearing masks for a long time whether there’s a pandemic or not,” said Shrestha, the urban planner.