Even after four years of Supreme Court decision, Kathmandu remains plastered with visual pollutantsThe Judgment Execution Directorate has once again asked government authorities to implement the 2015 Supreme Court decision and submit a progress report within seven days.
Even after four years of the Supreme Court announcing its verdict, the Kathmandu Metropolitan City’s record in freeing the Capital from hoarding boards and other forms of visual pollution remains questionable.
Visual pollution is a term used to describe something that blocks the natural view of a particular place or thing, interfering with the aesthetic beauty of a specific site, landscape, or city.
Responding to a writ petition, the Apex Court in 2015, had issued an interim order against the various government agencies including Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC), to remove all the unwanted hoarding boards, posters and pamphlets from different parts of the city.
However, four years into the decision, the KMC has failed to abide by the Supreme Court’s decision, despite frequent correspondence from the Judgment Execution Directorate to implement it. In the latest letter sent by the Directorate, it has asked the KMC to submit a progress report within seven days.
Ishwar Man Dangol, spokesperson of the Kathmandu Metropolitan City, said he was not aware of such a letter from the Directorate. However, he was quick to respond, saying the Apex Court decision was implemented effectively.
“The decision is well-implemented. We have removed hoarding boards from most of the areas in the Capital city, except in a few places,” said Dangol. “Hoarding boards have been removed from Kalimati, Baneshwor and other areas.”
But ground reality tells a different story. Major streets of the Valley, busy areas and most of the nooks and crannies are plastered with unsightly advertisements, pamphlets, movie posters, wall paintings, banners and graffiti.
These haphazardly placed hoarding boards, pamphlets and posters—elements of visual pollution—have tarnished the aesthetics of the Capital, known for its rich heritage and architecture.
Almost every year, the local authorities of Kathmandu Metropolitan City and Lalitpur Metropolitan City come up with customary campaigns to remove billboards from various places as part of their city beautification efforts. However, these routine initiatives have failed to rid the city of visual pollutants.
According to Padam Bahadur Shrestha, a senior advocate who had filed the writ petition demanding the removal of all forms of visual pollution, the local authorities are merely concerned with the removal of hoarding boards.
“The Supreme Court order states removal of not only the hoarding boards, but also pamphlets, posters, wall paintings and illegally placed ads on electric poles,” Shrestha told the Post. “Even after four years, the problem of visual pollution is unchanged. The city authorities have ignored to implement the order of the Supreme Court which is an act of contempt of court.”
The Supreme Court verdict on September 2, 2015 ordered the concerned authorities to maintain the civilised appearance of the city and remove the visual pollutants from core city areas. Since then, the Directorate has written to the authorities five times, questioning the status of the court’s decision, according to Shrestha.
The KMC authority claims that most of the unwanted pollutants have been cleared from the city.
“Leaving aside a few places, we have removed such pollutants from most of the places. We can’t claim of 100 percent, but 90 percent of these materials have been taken out,” said Dangol. “Also, it’s not about removing everything. Only those placed against the standards should be removed. We have intensified our action to remove remaining boards as well.”
As per the existing standards, such hoarding boards should be at least 10 feet away from the road and are to be placed on the rooftop only after technical report has been approved and after the KMC’s permission has been granted. They, simply, cannot be erected on structures adjoining the Singh Durbar, according to Dangol.
However, advocate Shrestha finds a bigger problem in how the visual pollutants like posters and pamphlets pasted at public places are not collected by the garbage collecting staff deployed by the local authorities.
“The KMC staff says their responsibility is only to clean the waste from the ground. But these posters and pamphlets are also solid waste under the Solid Waste Management Act, 2011,” said Shrestha. “As per the Act, these pamphlets and posters should be removed and collected by the city authorities. They charge fines on violators but do not collect these kinds of waste.”
According to Shrestha, the whole city will be cleaned with the money collected from fines imposed on polluters if the local authority strictly starts taking actions against advertisers as their names and addresses are readily available on their advertisements.
KMC has said they have launched yet another drive targeting the ‘Visit Nepal 2020’ campaign by establishing a new unit under the leadership of KMC Ward-18 chairperson, Nhuchhe Kaji Maharjan.
“We are inviting tourists from across the world for the ‘Visit Nepal 2020’, but our city is covered with banners, pamphlets and everything else that makes the city look ugly,” said Shrestha. “They will not come to see these banners. If we cannot clean these visual pollutants, then what’s the use of even asking them to come to see our beautiful cities.”