Authorities still undecided over removal of bus station from Khula ManchThe Kathmandu Metropolitan City has started clearing a part of Khula Manch at the instruction of the Prime Minister's Office.
The Kathmandu Metropolitan City has started clearing a portion of the Khula Manch area that had been occupied by construction materials and a makeshift encampment for workers hired for the restoration work of Bir Hospital and Durbar High School.
But the city office is still undecided about the bus station occupying the remaining land.
Khula Manch has served as the venue for rallies and mass gatherings during critical periods of Nepal’s political history, and is considered by many a hallowed space, a place that embodies the country’s democratic struggles.
In 2016 the Kathmandu Metropolitan City decided to temporarily move Purano Bus Park from across the road to Khula Manch to facilitate the construction of a view tower and a new bus depot at the old site.
The original plan was to move the old bus station to Khula Manch just for six months. It’s been more than five years, and the bus station is still there.
What little open space remained of the historic over the years was also turned into a storage yard for construction materials and a temporary living quarters for construction workers.
The city office started clearing the site from Wednesday following the instruction of the Prime Minister’s Office.
“Now that the area has been cleared, we are not going to allow any more encroachment there. The place is now open,” said Ishwor Man Dangol, spokesman for the city office.
But the area occupied by the bus station is unlikely to be cleared any time soon, as the proposed view tower and a new bus station at the site of old bus park is nowhere near complete.
Dangol didn’t have a definitive answer when asked if the city office was planning to clear the land occupied by the bus station.
“There has been consultation regarding the issue, but the city has not decided it yet,” he said.
In October 2019, a citizens’ group had launched a three-months long demonstration, including activities like photo exhibition, poetry recitation, sapling plantation and painting exhibition, to build pressure on the government to vacate Khula Manch.
At the time, Kathmandu Mayor Bidya Sundar Shakya had dismissed the demonstration as “a publicity stunt of some politically motivated people”.
“What stopped Mayor Shakya from taking the decision earlier? This clearly shows the inability of local authority to take a decision independently,” said Alok Siddhi Tuladhar, a heritage conservationist who was part of the citizens-led campaign against Khula Manch occupation.
Ganapati Lal Shrestha, another heritage conservationist, welcomed the city’s move but said it does not put Mayor Shakya in the positive light in any way.
“It was not his decision. The Kathmandu Metropolitan City decided to act only after PM Oli’s direction. It shows the inability of Mayor Shakya to make his own decision,” said Shrestha.
Mayor Shakya seems to have earned no friends by partially vacating Khula Manch, since it was a decision of the Prime Minister’s Office and not his.