Campaigners gear up for demonstration to reclaim Tundikhel from encroachersAmid government apathy, one of Kathmandu Valley’s largest open spaces is under threat from multiple interest groups.
Conservationists, heritage lovers and members of the civil society will hold a demonstration on Saturday and form a human chain to put pressure on the government to reclaim Tundikhel, one of Kathmandu Valley’s largest open spaces for public gatherings, which has been heavily encroached upon in recent years.
Conservation activists say government’s apathy towards Tundikhel has turned what was once an open green landmass into an urban nightmare, replete with encroachments. Besides the Nepal Army headquarters, the open stretch of land is home to a bus station, a car parking area and a dumping site for construction waste.
“Tundikhel belongs to nearly 30 million Nepalis. This is the only place where we can breathe fresh air, but see how it’s being encroached upon,” said Biraj Bhakta Shrestha, a provincial assembly member from Province 3, at a news conference on Thursday. “Tundikhel has historical, ecological and religious importance, but the government is not concerned. We need to wake them up, that’s why everyone must attend the human chain on Saturday.”
Tundikhel worked as temporary shelter for thousands of earthquake survivors during the 1934 and 2015 earthquakes. Besides, conservationists say the open ground has played a great role in recharging the city’s groundwater and acting as its purifier.
“Tundikhel is not government property; it belongs to the public. That is why every one of us should come together to protest this encroachment,” said Sanjay Adhikari, a student at the Kathmandu Law Campus, who for long has been fighting for the removal of encroachments from this heritage site.
“Article 48 of the constitution says that every individual must protect public property, so theoretically, there’s a constitutional obligation for everyone to attend our demonstration where we are going to build a human chain to raise our voice against encroachment,” said Adhikari.
Named ‘Occupy Tundikhel’, the campaign will be held on ‘World Freedom Day’, that would start with a people forming a chain from 8am to 10am, starting from Khula Manch, said one of the organisers.
“Tundikhel’s area spans nearly four kilometres from Rani Pokhari to Dasharath Stadium. We will continue our protest until our demand is addressed,” said Alok Siddhi Tuladhar, one of the organisers. “Our purpose is to make people aware and awake. We are going to create a creative platform for artists to perform, we are going to make people aware through music, street plays, poetry recitation and organising other events.”
Bhimsen Das Pradhan, a Member of Parliament from Kathmandu Constituency-6, said the country achieved democracy from “this very open space”. “For democracy, open spaces are very important. The lungs of Kathmandu Valley have shrunk, it’s an alarming situation,” he said. “The local government looks like it is in slumber and that is the reason why we need to assert ourselves on this issue with the provincial and central governments.”