Garbage top problem among callers to city officeKathmandu’s ‘call centre’ has received over 1,200 calls but City yet to develop mechanism to address public grievances.
It’s 9:30am on Thursday, and the phone is ringing non-stop at the Kathmandu Metropolitan City’s ‘call centre’ set up at the City Hall on Exhibition Road.
Guna Laxmi Gajurel, 51, one of the three call operators manning the centre, picks up the phone.
“Namaskar, this is Kathmandu Metropolitan City, you can lodge your complaints and inquiry,” says Gajurel, who is wearing a white shirt and blue trousers—the dress code for municipal staff.
A man from ward-6, Bauddha registers his complaints about the increasing number of potholes and the ubiquitous garbage.
Gajurel notes complaints on a white sheet of paper although there is a computer in front.
“We are yet to be trained to use the software. So we have been taking notes of people’s problems,” said Gajurel, who was recently transferred to the call centre from the municipal Law Directorate.
Kathmandu mayor Balendra Shah inaugurated the ‘call centre’ with a toll free number—16600105511—on Monday. In three days, the city received a total of 1,299 phone calls—700 on Tuesday, 399 on Wednesday and 200 calls on Thursday.
The first executive meeting of the metropolis on May 30 had decided to operate a call centre within a week.
Nama Raj Dhakal, the Information Technology chief at the call centre, said 15 people can call on the toll free number at a time but only three people are deployed to respond to callers. He said more people are yet to be hired.
“On the first day we got a massive number of calls from the public. Over 80 percent were regarding the garbage problem and the foul smell emanating from trash heaps,” said Shree Hari Thapa, 45, another call operator who also has no idea how to use the software.
“The cases get recorded automatically. Even the mayor and deputy mayor have direct access to those calls, but we are yet to learn how to pass them to the respective departments,” said Thapa.
Most callers were concerned about the halt in garbage collection, problem of public toilets, drainage overflow, muddy roads, dirty water, encroachment of public spaces, absence of parking lots, dog poop and the threat of stray dogs biting.
Other inquiries were about when the supply of water from Melamchi would resume, Covid-19 vaccination and how to tie up with the KMC to make toilets accessible to the public.
There have long been concerns over how the metropolis responds to the complaints.
Based on the City's decision, those complaints would be forwarded to the respective department for action. For instance, the complaints regarding potholes are dealt with by the Public Construction Department; problems related to footpath encroachment, parking problems and illegal shops by the Enforcement Department (City Police); and problems related to tax evasion are addressed by the revenue department.
Sudha Shakya, assistant director at City’s Information Technology Department, says her team has already established a great platform to register complaints including the details of the caller such as their telephone number and time of call.
Dhakal, the chief of the IT department, said the City is working to address immediate problems through the infrastructure ambulance concept. “Out of the 1,299 phone calls, more than 1,000 are related to garbage problems. The infrastructure ambulances are ready and we are preparing to respond to urgent needs,” he said.
Dhakal added the problem of drainage, potholes and water-logging after heavy rains would be solved immediately.