Waste and dust management in Kathmandu a challenge for new people’s representativesSeven broomer machines remain garaged in lack of drivers. Local obstructions continue at Nuwakot landfill sites.
Last Friday, soon after winning the mayoral election, independent candidate Balendra Shah rushed to the Sisdole and Banchare Danda landfill sites and announced that he would not accept felicitation scarfs or garlands from anyone until the Sisdole residents’ problems were solved.
He was well aware of the fact that the door-to-door garbage collection in Kathmandu remains halted for the past one month due to protests by the villagers on the way to the landfill sites in Nuwakot.
But the mayor seems to be unaware of the dust problem in Kathmandu streets. Although the Kathmandu Metropolitan City has nine broomer machines, most of the residents have not seen the machines on the streets since the start of the Covid pandemic.
City officials say seven of the nine broomers remain garaged for a lack of drivers. “The contracts of seven drivers expired on March 26 and new hirings have not started,” said Purna Chandra Bhatta, in-charge of broomer machines. He said just two machines are in operation.
Dust has become synonymous with Kathmandu for the past few years, especially after the government launched a road widening drive in 2011 and after the digging of roads by the Melamchi Water Supply Project to lay drinking water pipes. Now most of the roads in Kathmandu are full of dust due to lack of maintenance, and perpetual construction activities along the roadsides.
In his first municipal executive meeting on Monday, Mayor Shah announced to set up a “a call center” within a week to hear complaints of Kathmandu residents, and operate an “infrastructure ambulance service,” which will fix problems like potholes on the road, and leaking water mains and sewers, among other things.
With the onset of pre-monsoon, Kathmandu’s roads become muddy when it rains, and dusty when it is sunny.
Environmentalists and city urban planners have long been criticising the inability of the City’s previous leadership to hire drivers to operate broomer machines as “irresponsible”.
“The earlier leadership of the City was a failure when it came to addressing the garbage and dust problems. Now that the City has got new elected representatives, they should work seriously to address these problems,” said Bhusan Tuladhar, an environmentalist who closely follows urban issues including pollution.
However, this is not the first time that the broomer machines are out of duty. Last November, the machines were garaged for over a month and City officials gave various excuses including that some were broken and the drivers of some machines had not returned to work after the Dashain festival.
In his conversation with the Post last November, urban planner Suman Meher Shrestha had said the reason behind Kathmandu’s roads being full of dust was because the wrong people were in the wrong positions.
“The former leadership of the city should have hired new drivers on time. They were not sincere about their basic responsibilities, like managing garbage and keeping the City’s streets are dust-free,” said Shrestha.
But Pramod Dangol, mechanical engineer and acting chief of the Mechanical Equipment Division of the City, said the problems will be resolved soon since the City has got new representatives.
Kathmandu Metropolitan City had bought five Dulevo-6000 machines in 2019 at the cost of Rs 108 million, and in the same year two were bought from the same company. In the same year, the Chinese government had gifted two more broomers machines, but that came into operation a year later as it didn’t get operators.
The City still deploys 750 sweepers daily to clean the road at Ratnapark, Lainchaur, Bagdurbar, Old Baneshwar, Putalisadak, Tripureshwar, Bhadrakali and other parts of the City but it has been making do with just two broomer machines.
Sarita Rai, chief of the environment department, said the City is working to hire new drivers for the broomer machines. “On Tuesday we briefed Mayor Shah on the problems. We will soon hire drivers for the broomers, as the procurement process is underway,” said Rai.