Activists memo ward office against Khula Manch parking planWard-28 chairman receiving the memorandum on Sunday said his office will oppose the Kathmandu Metropolitan City’s plan.
Heritage activists and locals who initiated the ‘Occupy Tudikhel’ campaign in 2019 for three months to reclaim encroached public space, on Sunday submitted a memorandum to the Kathmandu Metropolitan City’s ward-28 protesting the City’s plan to construct an underground parking lot at the historical Khula Manch.
“Since the Khula Manch lies in ward-28, we decided to first nudge the ward office,” said Ganapati Lal Shrestha, a heritage conservationist and one of the campaigners of Occupy Tudikhel.
On November 15, the Kathmandu Metropolitan City’s 10th executive meeting approved a proposal to prepare a detailed project report (DPR) for a three-story underground parking facility and a water recharge pit at Khula Manch. Conservationists, groundwater experts and locals have expressed serious concerns over the plan.
“The Local Government Operation Act 2074 mandates local governments to protect public spaces, but it seems the KMC is doing just the opposite,” said Sanjay Adhikari, spokesperson of Occupy Tudikhel, who is also a law student.
After continuous protests by heritage activists, locals and citizen-led groups calling for vacating Khula Manch in 2019, municipal officials had finally removed the bus park and padlocked its gate on April 28 last year. During Dashain, it was used as a parking lot for shoppers.
“Earlier it had been agreed to plant grass on the ground and the KMC had started clearing the bushes and unwanted vegetation. But all of a sudden it came up with the plan to construct a three-story underground parking lot. But what is more strange is that the elected representatives remain quiet on a sensitive issue like this,” the memo submitted to the ward office on Sunday reads.
When the Post asked the ward office about the KMC’s basement parking plan, the officials said it was tabled at the executive meeting without prior information and the meeting decided to proceed with the DPR plan.
“Since we are also elected representatives, we know the value of the Khula Manch, so we will not allow the Kathmandu Metropolitan City office to construct a parking lot there,” said Bhairam Khadgi, ward-28, chairperson.
“We will soon meet the mayor and tell him that the Khula Manch should be left untouched,” said Khadgi.
The Khula Manch, which lies at the heart of Kathmandu, is a historically important public space and location of political protests, rallies, concerts and festivals. The Khula Manch was the flashpoint of the popular movements of 1990 and 2006. The country saw restoration of democracy in 1990, while the 2006 movement led to the abolition of monarchy.
Besides this, groundwater experts have also said that construction of an underground parking facility would affect the groundwater recharge system.
Last week in his conversation with the Post, groundwater expert Padma Sundar Joshi of the UN Habitat Nepal said that construction of an underground parking lot might be helpful in resolving the parking problem in Kathmandu, but digging up 30 to 40 feet underground would greatly impact the underground water recharge system.
“There will be ample space for parking in the Dharahara area since the Post Office has shifted. Also, an alternative parking lot can be developed inside the Nepal Airlines Corporation compound. So why do they want to dig up the historical public space? Do they have the answer?” said Shrestha.
Some conservationists suggest that the Nepal Airlines Corporation should be shifted elsewhere, a multi-storey parking building should be constructed on the site and the New Road area should be declared vehicle-free zone.
The Kathmandu Metropolitan City has long been criticised for not building a bus park, a lack of which has greatly inconvenienced those who need to travel to the outskirts of Kathmandu as they have no proper spots to board vehicles.
In 2016, the city had decided to use half of the Khula Manch as bus park to facilitate the construction of a view tower at the old bus park site across the road. The City had planned to use the tower’s basement and the first floor as a bus terminal, but the tower is still under construction, and the capital city is without a bus park.