Lalitpur locals call officials out on dusty, pothole-riddled roadAfter running out of options, they installed ‘protest boards’ by collecting up to Rs 200.
Following the government’s indifference towards repairing the road that leads to Patan’s Mangal Bazar from Saugal (Lalitpur’s Sundhara area) for more than a year, locals have come up with a novel idea to make themselves heard.
They have placed four ‘protest boards’ on the 700m-long pothole riddled road. Each board bears sarcastic remarks that highlight the concerned officials’ neglect. One board written in red reads: “Is it necessary to demonstrate to repair the road?” While another, placed a 100 meters away, reads “This is the condition of a Visit Nepal 2020 road.”
“The road is so dusty that I need to change two face masks in a day. I can’t even do that now as there’s a shortage of masks due to the coronavirus outbreak,” said Uttam Maharjan,43, owner of Bidya Book Store in Saugal.
“We reached out to the Lalitpur Metropolitan City, Department of Roads, Project Implementation Directorate of Melamchi Drinking Water...there isn’t any government agency we haven’t visited,” said Maharjan. “Everyone assured us that the road will be fixed, but one fixed it.”
After running out of authorities to visit, locals collected money and decided to place boards on the road demanding that the government fix the dusty road.
The road in Lalitpur is not the only one that needs fixing. Almost all alleyways in the Valley have not been tarred and are dusty. This caused problems for the locals, especially during the monsoons. While locals have resorted to various forms of protest, the government has not done its bit.
“All of my family members have respiratory problems because of the dust,” said Meena Maharjan, 48, who runs a cosmetic shop in the area. “Half of the goods in my shop have been damaged by dust,” said Meena, who donated Rs200 for the boards.Her neighbours donated Rs20-200 for the cause.
“At least the people who walk on the road can see government apathy towards the road and if the government authorities walk or travel through this road, they may see it as well,” she said.
Uttam Maharjan, the brain behind the idea, said the boards were placed under the first round of protests. “Although the authorities didn’t keep their promise, we didn’t want to block this road, as this is a tourist hub and our students need to go to school,” he said. “The road itself is narrow and if we block it, this will cause further trouble to the public, so we adopted this measure,” he added.
Hem Maharjan, chairperson of Ward No.8, Lalitpur Metropolitan City, said that he has been lobbying with city officials to solve the problem. “This road section is a headache for me and I am one of the people suffering because of it as locals are pressure me to act, all the time.”
When contacted by the Post, Lalitpur Metropolitan City Mayor Chiri Babu Maharjan said he had inquired about the problem faced by the locals and is requesting officials at the Department of Roads and Project Implementation Directorate of Kathmandu Upatyaka Khanepani Limited to carry out the repair work at the earliest.
“This road couldn’t be repaired last year because the Machindranath Chariot had to pass through it. This year, the Melamchi project did not lay the pipes on time,” said the mayor. “The road will soon be blacktopped,” said the Lalitpur mayor.
However, officials at the Project Implementation Directorate under the Melamchi project said it was not its job to repair the road. “We have already handed Rs850 million to the Department of Roads to asphalt 62km of road in Kathmandu we dug to lay pipelines,” said Project Director Bhoj Bikram Thapa.
Amrit Mani Rimal, Lalitpur division chief at the Department of Roads blamed the locals. “It’s a local issue. They dug the road haphazardly for their drainage,”said Rimal. “We will soon solve this problem. This road will be laid within a week.”