Social campaigner is beaten up while nabbing litterbugs in KoteshworGarbage throwing on roadside is rampant during the night, but authorities till date have paid no heed.
On Wednesday, around midnight, a taxi abruptly stopped under the overhead bridge just a few metres south of Koteshwor chowk. Besides the driver, a woman with a child were inside the taxi. On the roof of the taxi were huge bags of garbage.
The taxi had stopped to dump garbage into the open, public space under the bridge. But little did the taxi driver know that he was not alone on the road. Waiting patiently in a corner to catch violators in the act was KP Khanal, an 18-year-old social campaigner, live streaming the entire incident on Facebook.
“Before he could start unloading, we stopped the driver and started questioning him. Then he started arguing with us, and called his friends, who immediately came to his side and manhandled us,” said Khanal, who has been actively trying to keep the streets of Kathmandu clean, with his ‘Clean Kasthamandap’ campaign, since December last year.
“It was just the three of us, me and two friends, Genious Niraula and Som Tamang, and that is why they attacked us. This was the first time I felt unsafe while trying to do something good,” said Khanal. After the brawl, the attackers were taken to the Koteshwor Police Station for interrogation but were let go shortly, said Khanal.
However, that was not the first taxi that had stopped under the overhead bridge that night to dump garbage on the roadside. Another taxi had sped off after unloading two bags full of waste at around 11:15pm. Khanal and his team had pursued the Tinkune-bound taxi.
“We chased the taxi, and made them take back their trash,” says Khanal, on a Facebook video. “We are not going to sleep or end our drive against litterbugs.” Along with the taxi, Khanal and his friends stopped a motorcycle from throwing trash as well.
Almost every night, Khanal and his team of at least seven members patrol areas seeking out people who litter public spaces. During the day, Khanal and his team locate possible areas where people usually dump garbage—and then they return to these places at night.
Khanal, who was also behind the #trashtag challenge in Nepal, which had gained a lot of attention in March, has taken up the initiative because he sees a lack of leadership from the Kathmandu Metropolitan City in controlling littered garbage on the road. Since his campaign took off in December last year, he has been praised by thousands of people on social media, with each live streaming receiving hundreds of positive messages from Nepalis around the world.
Khanal and his team have been picking garbage from over 24 places in the Valley, particularly in crowded areas like New Bus Park, Kalanki, Bagbazaar, Chabahil, Balaju, and Maharajung. Khanal says his team has forced over 300 litterbugs to take back their dumped garbage with them.
“These young boys are doing the job which should be the city authority’s responsibility,” said Pitambar Pokharel, who runs an eatery in Koteshwor.
When the Post contacted Hari Bahadur Shrestha, chief of the Environment Division at the City, regarding its inaction against night-time garbage throwers, he said, “We have not been able to mobilise our officers due to a shortage of manpower. But if somebody complains, we take action,” said Shrestha. To tackle the issue, the metropolis is now set to form a night-inspection team for litterbugs, he added.
Although the Solid Waste Management Act-2011 states that those found guilty of disposing of garbage on the roadside or undesignated areas are liable to a six-month jail term or a fine of Rs 5,000 to Rs150,000, the law has not been enforced properly. Town planners say people have been throwing garbage in public spaces during the night due to lack of civic sense and dustbins on roadsides.
In an effort to manage haphazard road waste, the metropolitan city has placed 60 dustbins across the city, with each costing Rs 600,000, but people do not use them, as they are not aware of it, and they find its design puzzling.
“I have met Mayor Bidya Sundar Shakya, Deputy Mayor Hari Prabha Khadgi, and the environment division chief several times to raise the issue of controlling the garbage throwing culture, but they were indifferent,” said Khanal.
Due to his active participation in making the city clean, the Basundhara-based Green City Hospital has appointed him as its ambassador, and even provides him with food and shelter. Khanal is originally from Accham, Sudurpaschim Province, and is in Kathmandu to pursue his bachelor’s degree.
“I am a citizen of this country, and I will keep working to keep our city clean—even if I get thrashed for it. I won’t give up,” says Khanal.
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