Open manholes have now been covered but their elevation poses another problemRaised manholes, which act as an unexpected speed bump on the roads and cause accidents, are a death trap, said numerous drivers.
A month ago, Subodh Dhakal was returning home from Durbarmarg on his motorcycle after a get-together with a friend. It was around 9:30 in the evening. When he reached Ghantaghar, the front wheel of his bike struck into a raised manhole. He fell, suffering a minor injury to his right knee.
“I feel lucky that there was no vehicle at that time,” said 37-year-old Dhakal, who lives in Kupondole. “Earlier, there used to be open manholes. These days, the manholes have been covered, but in many places they are raised. This is negligent on the part of the authorities.”
There has been much criticism from commuters and the media regarding the city’s open drains and uncovered manholes.
In October 2018, a cyclist died after falling into an uncovered drain. The city authorities had subsequently begun to cover up these road hazards. The manholes are now raised in elevation, acting as an unexpected speed bump in the middle of the road. Numerous drivers that the Post spoke to called the raised manholes a “death trap”.
“They are really dangerous. Where there are no street lamps, you only see them when you are too close and by then, it’s too late,” said Siddhartha Pudasaini, an artist who commutes regularly on his motorbike.
The traffic police too have acknowledged that both sunken and raised manholes cause accidents and traffic jams on the road. In order to deal with the poor state of roads in Kathmandu Valley, the Metropolitan Traffic Police Division has come up with a 37-point work plan to ensure road safety and maintain potholes and manholes, Bhim Prasad Dhakal, chief of the traffic police.
But the raised manholes are yet another example of how uncoordinated the city is when it comes to repair and road work and how the authorities do not seem to be able to resist passing the buck.
The Department of Sewerage and Water Supply, the department charged with laying sewers and drains and covering up manholes, blames the Department of Roads for not maintaining the elevation on the roads.
According to Laxmi Prasad Upadhaya, spokesperson for the Department of Sewerage and Water Supply, the Department of Roads, Kathmandu Metropolitan City and Lalitpur Metropolitan City are responsible for maintaining a uniform level on the roads.
“Our work is to lay sewer lines and it’s the metropolitan city that cleans them and the Department of Roads that builds the roads,” said Upadhaya. “They should ensure that a uniform level is maintained as I can see that the raised manholes are very dangerous for both two- and four-wheelers.”
The sewerage department did not have any data on how many manholes are there in the Valley or their present state.
The Department of Roads said that it had done its job, and in turn, blamed the Ministry of Water Supply and the Kathmandu Metropolitan City.
“We have already brought many manholes to the level of the road,” said Keshav Kumar Sharma, director-general at the Department of Roads. “This problem should be solved by the Ministry of Water Supply and Kathmandu Metropolitan City.”
But according to Kedar Neupane, chief executive officer at Kathmandu Metropolitan City, maintenance of manholes on roads that are more than eight metres wide is not under the city’s jurisdiction. Raju Maharjan, spokesperson for Lalitpur Metropolitan City, said the same thing.
“It’s the task of the Department of Roads,” said Maharjan.
According to city planners, it is the city that needs to ultimately be responsible for the welfare of its citizens and fix the roads.
“The new constitution has given rights to the local body to fix all these problems, but they are reluctant. This is because they are short-sighted,” said urban planner Suman Maher Shrestha. “Instead of blaming each other, all the authorities need to work together and come up with an integrated plan.”