On third day of its demolition drive, KMC clears passport office basementAfter the City vacated the basement Friday, the office published a notice saying the basement will be used as a parking lot from Sunday onwards.
The Kathmandu Metropolitan City on Friday vacated the basement of the Department of Passport, which the City said was being used for other than the stated purpose.
City police removed chairs and other furniture from the basement as part of its ongoing drive to demolish illegal structures and remove businesses being operated from spaces with site plan approval for other purposes such as parking.
Although public opinion has swayed in Kathmandu mayor Balendra Shah’s favour since he initiated the demolition drive, those directly affected by the drive, especially office bearers at the Department of Passport, are worried about managing the huge footfall of service-seekers at the office every day.
“Over 5,000 people come here to get services daily. We were using the basement as a waiting area for service seekers. We were also distributing passports from here,” said Surendra Kumar Yadav, general director of the department.
The limited space and insufficient support infrastructure at the passport office compelled the office to use the basement for purposes other than parking for vehicles, said Yadav.
“We want to help the City in its drive. We had asked the City for some more time to make other arrangements but they vacated the basement on Friday itself. This is going to cause inconvenience to service-seekers who come here in their thousands daily,” said Yadav. “It will be hard to manage such a huge crowd now.”
Shah, accompanied by police, reached the Tripureshwar-based passport office in the afternoon and removed over 200 chairs from the basement being used as the waiting area.
The passport department started issuing biometric passports from its Tripureshwar office from the third week of November last year. Since then service seekers from across the country have been visiting the Capital which has inadvertently led to overcrowding at the passport office with limited infrastructure.
“The department is the most crowded government office in the Valley,” said Yadav. “It’s going to be very difficult to manage the crowd.”
While the passport office used the basement as its waiting area for service-seekers, the vehicles meant to be parked in the basement could be seen parked outside the office building in a narrow alley causing massive traffic jams in the area.
After Shah and his team vacated the basement on Friday, the passport office published a notice informing service seekers that the basement will be used as a parking lot from Sunday onwards.
The office has requested service seekers to visit the office only after registering online for time and date allocation for any passport-related work.
“We request our clients to come through gate number two to collect passports and to not crowd outside the office,” reads the statement.
On Thursday, Shah had the basement of the Alfa Beta Complex demolished. Before the City demolished the illegal structure, there was a verbal altercation between the managing director of Alfa Beta, Dwiraj Sharma and Shah.
The City started its demolition drive on Wednesday. On the first day, Shah cleared illegal structures in front of the Kathmandu Mall at Sundhara, RB Complex at Khichapokhari and reached the London Pub at Durbar Marg, to clear the illegal basement parking.
Following Shah’s move, members of political parties have commented and shown concerns, some terming Shah’s move as “anarchic”
Speaking at a function in Kathmandu, Min Bahadur Bishwakarma, a Congress lawmaker, blamed Shah for not following the law.
“The mayor should focus on managing the City lawfully,” said Bishwakarma. “The City should send a letter to those who have breached the law and take appropriate steps such as issuing a fine for violating the rules and regulations. He should not promote anarchy in the Valley,” he added.
CPN-UML lawmaker Mahesh Basnet has been sharing his concerns about Shah’s work since Thursday.
“You might have thought you would be hailed as a hero for doing this,” wrote Basnet on his Facebook page. He further lashed out at Shah asking him to not be swayed by the support he has garnered on social media for his work. “What will happen if your opponents also start applying your methods to get their work done?” he writes.
The City launched the demolition drive on July 18 by issuing a 35-day ultimatum to the owners of commercial buildings to clear the basements for parking vehicles. It, however, does not have accurate data on the number of illegal structures in Kathmandu.
Suraj Shakya, chief of the Building Construction Department, said since 2018, a total of 274 basements have been registered for vehicle parking in the Kathmandu Metropolitan area. He, however, said the City is unaware of how many of them have been using the basement for other purposes. The City also does not have data on the number of basement parking being illegally used for business purposes.
With basements meant for parking rented out to businesses, vehicles are parked outside the buildings and oftentimes, on the roadsides, causing traffic congestion in the City.
The Kathmandu Metropolitan City’s local gazette 2075 (2018), section 12, states that if structures in Kathmandu are built against the rules set by the City, it has the right to demolish such structures.
“Our wish is that structures should be used for their stated purposes. The City is thankful to those who have been doing this already,” reads his status.