Metropolis in declineOnce-grand Kathmandu has been ranked as the fifth most polluted city in the world
Less than a month remains for the federal parliamentary and provincial assembly elections. The upcoming polls could be a key step in strengthening democracy and providing political stability which has become a major hurdle to peace and prosperity in Nepal. Frequent changes in the government have hampered many developmental projects in the country.
However, while analysing the post-local election situation in Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC), there are very few reasons to cheer. The new mayor promised that he would fulfil his duties and responsibilities with due honesty and would not disappoint the voters. But to our dismay, the city today is facing severe problems. It was thought that the elected representative would improve the face of the city. Sadly, his working style seems to be so lethargic that nothing seems to be moving in the right direction. So far, Mayor Shakya doesn’t seem to have focused on the tasks that will benefit the city’s residents. In contrast, he is more focused on facilities and foreign visits for the council members and himself.
The state of service delivery
Being a responsible citizen, I went to pay taxes at my ward office in the capacity of a home owner. There were many other people who were waiting eagerly for their turn. The chaotic environment was a reflection of the real picture of KMC. The small house which serves as ward office lacked adequate space for sitting or standing. The people whom I met there were complaining to the officials about the slow pace of service delivery. I couldn’t believe what I saw there, so I went to visit some other ward offices for reference. How could the situation be different anywhere when all bureaucrats have a similar mindset? This is only one example about inadequate service delivery.
It would be worthwhile to recall that the CPN-UML had made many promises and high-sounding slogans during the election campaign. There was a big commitment to make the municipality smart, neat and clean. In addition, the party had also pledged to standardise the city’s transportation system. In fact, the mayor himself had promised in public that he would accomplish 101 tasks in his first 100 days during the campaign. However, the extent to which Mayor Shakya will fulfil his commitments is yet to be seen.
With elected representatives in place, people had thought that things would change for the better. However, it doesn’t seem that much has changed. Kathmandu has been ranked as the fifth most polluted city in the world in the 2017 Numbeo Pollution Index. The bad road condition has made it very dangerous for driving. Dust pollution and the traffic situation is similarly bad. A few months ago, a school girl crossing a flooded road fell into an open drain in Samakhusi and died. Immediately after this horrific incident, the prime minister ordered the concerned authorities to fill all pits on the road within 15 days. But the issue was not really taken care of by the concerned authorities.
Kathmandu Metropolitan City has failed to address this issue for a long time now. An equally challenging job is maintaining heritage sites. These sites are a major economic source for the country through tourism. Nevertheless, no serious concern has been shown or action taken to preserve these heritage sites after they were severely hit by the 2015 earthquake. At least the mayor could direct the concerned authorities to ban vehicles around heritages sites to preserve them.
Residents of Kathmandu lack basic facilities such as drinking water, proper roads, garbage management, education and health, let alone modern amenities. The government should allocate sufficient funds to the city as it is the cultural and political seat of Nepal too. More importantly, the mayor should assume leadership in such a way that it will help to transform the city itself. Towards this end, he should have feelings for the city and its people. Plans and programmes should not be limited to paper, they have to be translated into action.
The newly elected local representatives have not been able to fulfil the aspirations of the people for many reasons. Many accuse them of being self-centred and corrupt. If this trend continues, there will be no reason for the people to expect much from the federal and provincial elections either. I think the time has come for us to be more vigilant while voting. This is the only way to change the extant situation.
Adhikari holds an MA in English literature from Tribhuvan University