Squatters left out in coldTwo years after being chased away from the banks of Bagmati river at UN Park by the erstwhile Baburam Bhattarai-led government, the squatters have yet to relocated as promised.
The squatters totaling 258 families are crammed tightly in makeshift shelters with flimsy plastic roofs and walls made of rugged sacks to protect themselves from the monsoon rain.
“I am scared of the wind and heavy rain during the monsoon season,” said twelve-year-old Kabita Rai who lives in a temporary shelter for evicted families of Thapathali. “The rain dripping down from the roof of our house soaks my books and ruins my school dress.”
There are an estimated 150 students in the settlement who share similar stories of hardship. “We don’t know what to do this monsoon, save ourselves or our books,” said Rai. Of the 258 families displaced in the 2012 demolition drive to evict squatters living illegally on the banks of the Bagmati river, 46 families received Rs 25,000 to relocate themselves while 11 families moved to Manohare Khola.
“After the demolition drive, the then Prime Minister Bhattarai came here and promised better housing for all of us within a month’s time. He had just made false promises to appease us,” recalled Dal Mardan Kami, who has been living in the settlement since 2005.
Despite the inhumane conditions endured by the squatters, concerned authorities have turned a blind eye towards their plight and provided no immediate relief. Officials at Kathmandu Valley Development Authority (KVDA) say that it is impossible to ensure better living conditions for these squatters before monsoon due to insufficient budget and manpower.
KVDA Deputy Commissioner Bhaikaji Tiwari said squatters in Kathmandu are illegally encroaching on public lands. “Squatters have been supported by politicians and NGOs for their own vested interest, making the situation even worse for the authorities,” said Tiwari.
KDVA official Keshar Neupane, who has been keenly monitoring the situation of squatters, said over 300 ropanis of land would be required to solve the overall problem concerning squatters.