Mayor praised for launching demolition driveCity officials say if all basements are cleared of illegal businesses then much of the parking problem will be solved.
Kathmandu Metropolitan City has given continuity to its drive to demolish illegal structures in the city.
On Thursday, after inspecting the New Baneshwar area, Mayor Balendra Shah demolished the basement of the Alfa Beta Complex.
Before the excavators demolished the illegal structure of the Complex, there was a verbal altercation between the managing director of Alfa Beta, Dwiraj Sharma, and Shah.
When Shah asked for the blueprint of the building, Sharma said he was unaware of the City’s notice, and instead asked the City to present his building’s blueprint.
“Didn’t you see the municipal notice issued 35 days ago to clear the basement?” retorted the mayor. “Who should have the blueprint of the building, you or me?”
Later in the day the mayor wrote on Facebook: “He [Sharma] asked me to produce his building’s blueprint. Then I came to my office and returned with the blueprint and a bulldozer. What mistake did I make? I don’t want this to repeat and request everyone concerned to follow the blueprint and demolish illegal structures on their own.”
Although the City had attempted to demolish illegal structures at the Norvic Hospital on August 9 by issuing a 24-hour ultimatum, it backtracked on the ultimatum and formed a probe committee to investigate the alleged encroachment.
Later, the committee was forced to stop its work after the Supreme Court issued an interlocutory order not to remove the structures built by the hospital.
However, from this week starting Wednesday, the City intensified the drive to clear illegal structures and businesses operating from basements of commercial buildings. On the first day Shah had cleared illegal structures in front of the Kathmandu Mall at Sundhara, RB Complex in Khichapokhari and London Pub at Durbar Marg amid protests by business operaters.
The City launched the drive on July 18 by issuing a 35-day ultimatum to the owners of commercial buildings to clear the basements for parking vehicles. It, however, does not have accurate data on the number of illegal structures in Kathmandu.
“We don’t have actual data on such illegal structures,” admitted Suraj Shakya, the chief of the Building Construction Department at the KMC. “Mayor Shah himself has been leading the demolition drive by visiting the sites.”
According to data provided by the Building Construction Department, 274 basements have been registered for vehicle parking since 2018, but the City itself is unaware how many of them have been using the basements for other purposes.
“We have intensified demolitions based on complaints by locals and the documents provided by the Building Construction Department of the City,” said Sunil Lamsal, an engineer and also secretary at the mayor’s office.
According to City officials, if the basements in all 32 wards meant for parking are cleared of illegal businesses, then this will solve a quarter of the parking problem in the city.
With basements meant for parking rented out to businesses, vehicles are parked outside the buildings and oftentimes, on the roadsides, causing traffic congestions in the city.
Lamsal further said the City is also working to clear illegal infrastructures at government offices, banks, and foreign embassies in Kathmandu, for which, it has written to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs through the Ministry of Federal Affairs and General Administration.
“Several foreign embassies have encroached on Kathmandu’s sidewalks and we have asked the foreign ministry to discuss the matter,” he added.
On Wednesday, the City wrote to the Kathmandu District Court seeking its building site plan clearance document. It had claimed that the district court had not presented a blueprint of the building in Babarmahal to the City.
Although those affected by the demolitions have protested Shah’s move, social media users have praised Shah for the work. The demolition of the illegal structures at Alfa Beta complex was broadcast live by a few television stations and on social media.
“This is the advantage of having an independent candidate as mayor, because no minister could do this,” commented Balaram Tiwari on a Facebook video of the demolition posted by Nepal Live. Till 5 pm, there were over 700 comments on the video and most praised the mayor for taking the initiative.
Urban planners have also welcomed the demolitions while requesting government bodies to implement the law effectively.
“This had to be done by someone,” said Kishor Thapa, a former government secretary experienced in urban planning. “And Mayor Shah did it. It is commendable.”
Similarly, urban planner Suman Meher Shrestha said the mayor should continue with demolitions and should not discriminate between those with and without nexus to power.
“I can see, the mayor’s drive has a huge public backing,” Shrestha said. “If the laws are implemented effectively then much of the problems will be solved gradually.”