As city declutters utility poles, some neighbourhoods are left with blocked streets and disrupted servicesChabahil area is dealing with patchy phone and internet services for a week now.
Besides potholes, pollution and traffic jams, another thing Kathmandu could do without is clusters of tangled wires hanging on utility poles.
While Ishwor Man Dangol, spokesperson for the Kathmandu Metropolitan City, claims that the city office has been managing these cable snarls for the past two years, not much of an improvement has been seen so far.
As part of the preparation for the Visit Nepal 2020 campaign, the city authority has ramped up its drive to clear cable tangles but seems to lack a concrete plan.
Last week, city workers removed cable clutters from the Maijubahal area in Chabahil, which led to the disruption of internet service in the area for days. Furthermore, the cut cables were left on the road, hindering the mobility of people and vehicles.
“We tolerated the internet service disruption. It was the loose wire tangles left on the road that caused us a great deal of inconvenience,” Laxmi Lamsal, a journalist for China Radio International, told the Post.
At Shanti Goreto, another neighbourhood in Chabahil, telephone, internet and cable TV services have been irregular for the past week.
The city authority had mobilised its workers to remove cable clutters without coordinating with the concerned telecom, internet and cable TV service providers.
“Telephone and internet services in our area have been patchy for a week now and the street is strewn with cables,” Ajashra Dhungana, a local man, told the Post on Tuesday.
When the Post contacted Suddha Kumar Dangol, chairman of Kathmandu Metropolitan City Ward No. 7, he said that his office was working to clear the street and restore the phone and internet services.
“We have informed the phone and internet service providers about the issue, but they have not responded,” he told the Post.
A similar problem had affected the locals and businesses in Thamel, the city’s tourist centre, in December. In the run-up to the Visit Nepal campaign, Thamel Tourism Development Council had launched a drive to remove excess cable tangles from electricity poles, but the well-intended enterprise unexpectedly ended up cutting off internet and phone services in the area, which is home to numerous hotels, restaurants, travel agencies and souvenir shops. And then there was also the problem of wire jumbles littering the streets. It took a week to clean the area.
The city’s spokesperson, Dangol, says there is a lack of space to dispose of the removed wires.
“We have been removing unsightly cable clusters from various parts of the city and keeping them at our garbage collection centre in Teku. There is no more space now. We cannot burn or bury these wires for the environment’s sake,” said Dangol.
Part of the reason the proliferation of cable tangles has gone beyond a manageable level, according to Dangol, is the lack of responsibility on the part of internet service providers, cable TV operators, electricity authority and telecom companies.
“They not only leave excess cables hanging on the poles, but they also do not bother removing the old unused cables,” Dangol said. “This problem cannot be managed effectively until the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology puts a stop to this bad work practice.”
The ministry, meanwhile, blames the city authority for the visual pollution caused by cable knots and rolls that hang on utility poles across the city.
“The problem continues to persist because the Kathmandu Metropolitan City is issuing permits to build new houses,” Shiva Prasad Tripathi, joint secretary at the ministry, told the Post.
Min Prasad Aryal, director at the state-owned Nepal Telecommunication Authority, says consultations are ongoing with the stakeholders for a permanent solution—an underground cable system.
“Currently, our priority is to manage the cables along the bigger roads and streets of Kathmandu, such as in New Baneshwor, Thapathali, Jamal and Ring Road,” Aryal told the Post. “In some places in the inner areas of the city, there are cables that are older than 20 years, and they are difficult to remove.”
Nepal Electricity Authority has also been in negotiations with the Department of Roads to build an underground cable system in Kathmandu. But the ambitious project is unlikely to commence anytime soon, given the complexity and scale of the undertaking. “It would take more than three years to build an underground cable system,” Kulman Ghising, managing director of the state-run power utility, told the Post.
The drive launched by the city authority to declutter utility poles for the Visit Nepal campaign comes too little, too late, Ram Manandhar, a resident of Chabahil, said.
“The city office has instead polluted our streets and disrupted essential services with its ill-conceived and hasty action.”