Four years after renovation, Ratna Park is filthy once againSituated in the heart of busy Kathmandu, Ratna Park is a relative oasis of tranquility, or so it aspires to be. When the park was first renovated and reopened to the public in June 2015, many had hoped that Ratna Park, long maligned, would see a resurgence as a clean and welcoming green space.
Situated in the heart of busy Kathmandu, Ratna Park is a relative oasis of tranquility, or so it aspires to be. When the park was first renovated and reopened to the public in June 2015, many had hoped that Ratna Park, long maligned, would see a resurgence as a clean and welcoming green space. Instead, the park has seen a steady decline in quality and hygiene. There is garbage everywhere, on the lawns and in the ponds; the paint is peeling and dustbins have not been emptied in a long time. Even the foliage of the trees and shrubbery are covered in dirt and dust.
Ever since its initial opening in 1964 by then queen Ratna Shah, the 42-ropani Ratna Park has gone through a series of changes. The park was founded for recreational purposes, especially for the children.
But over the years, it acquired a seedy reputation as a gathering place for prostitutes and drug addicts.
With a bus park right next to it, the park’s premises began to deteriorate, turning dirty and dingy. In 2014, the park was closed for renovation by the Kathmandu Metropolitan City and it reopened in 2015 with clean premises, fresh paint and serene surroundings, at a cost of Rs 8.4 million. In 2017, it was renamed after Shankhadhar Sakhwa, a legendary Kathmandu Valley figure who is credited with establishing the Nepal Sambat calendar, even though it is still colloquially known as Ratna Park.
“Ratna Park is a hub for everyone who visits Kathmandu,” said 43-year-old Purna Hamal, a frequent visitor to the park. “This is one of the best places for leisure but it is unfortunate how the authorities don’t seem to prioritise the cleanliness of the surroundings.
Eating peanuts and soaking up the sun with his friend, Hamal pointed out two distinct things—orange peels and plastic bags thrown right in front of, but not in, the dustbins, and a young boy lighting up a cigarette in the no-smoking park.
“The public need to be responsible and have some civic sense but more so, this clearly shows the negligence of the park’s management committee,” said Hamal.
Since its ‘re-birth’ in 2015, the park, which was free of cost, began to charge Rs 25 as an entrance fee.
The primary reason for the ticket price was to curb illegal activities and rowdy behaviour, according to Hari Sharan KC, unit chief of Ratna park and Ranipokhari at KMC’s Environment Division. In the last fiscal year, Ratna Park generated Rs 12.7 million, all of which went to the Kathmandu Metropolitan City. “Despite the income generated by the park, it has no role to play in the financial distribution of the park’s management,” said KC.
According to KC, the KMC allocates certain funds for the park’s maintenance every year. Last fiscal year, KMC allotted Rs 2.5 million for the maintenance of the ponds, garden and for painting the fences and other areas. However, the Post observed that the fences were broken; there was litter everywhere; a thick layer of algae had enveloped the pond where empty water bottles were tossed around; and the children’s section, filled with swings, slides and a see-saw, desperately needed refurbishment.
“If you compare the park to what it was before 2015, one would be appalled,” said KC. “What we have done to the park is a milestone, it’s become great.” According to him, the unit plans to submit a budget proposal of Rs 3.5 million for the coming fiscal year, which will focus more on gardening and basic renovation for the park.
Security is also once again becoming an issue at the park. With one lone security guard to oversee nearly a thousand visitors every week, prostitutes and pimps are once again lining outside the boundary of the park, while smokers light up easily in the corners despite the space being a no-smoking zone.
“It is not up to us to hire and fire people,” said Dinanath Sapkota, non-gazetted officer for Ratna Park and Ranipokhari at KMC’s Environment Division. “The KMC is responsible for that, with two guards doing shifts and only four cleaners doing the job from 7am to 10am in the morning.”
People like Krishna Majhi, who visit Ratna Park every day, recognise that managing the park is no easy task. “This place is so huge and with just one guard and no cleaners around, it is unfair,” said Majhi.
“The management team needs to hire more guards if they want more people to come.”
Majhi is currently preparing for his upcoming Korean language exams and he finds it awkward to spend a whole day in a tea shop without ordering anything. That’s why Ratna Park is a good substitute. He pays Rs 25 to spend an entire day in the park.
For regular visitors like Majhi, Ratna Park, despite its dilapidated state, is a place of solace. This is not because of how attractive the space is but more due to a lack of alternatives. One of the few public gardens in the middle of the city, Ratna Park can be compared to Lodhi Garden in Delhi, Central Park in New York and Hyde Park in London—all known for providing a serene and peaceful space in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the city. Only, in Kathmandu, Ratna Park, despite much promise, has continually let its visitors down.