Shah-Singha Durbar spat sign of bigger waste problemDhunibesi and Kakani vow to obstruct garbage disposal at Banchare Danda if their demands are not honoured.
It’s been nearly two weeks since the Kathmandu Metropolitan City stopped collecting garbage from Singha Durbar and other VIP addresses such as the Office of the President at Sheetal Niwas and prime minister’s residence at Baluwatar.
On April 9, Mayor Balendra Shah had announced his decision on social media, saying the move was made “not on a whim” but was rather a result of the “neglect, lack of responsibility and carelessness shown by the federal government”.
Efforts to resolve the issue have made no headway, and while Shah and Singha Durbar continue to be at loggerheads, local units that host landfills where Kathmandu’s waste is dumped have threatened to stop garbage disposal.
Dhunibesi Municipality and Kakani Rural Municipality have threatened to bar KMC’s garbage trucks from dumping garbage if the agreement they reached with the KMC on June 6 last year is not implemented. The two local units have given the KMC 15 days to make good on the agreement.
“The KMC has not fulfilled any of our demands except managing spill of leachate on the road,” said Bal Krishna Acharya, mayor of Dhunibesi Municipality, where the Banchare Danda landfill falls.
He said due to the City’s negligence, the leachate from the pond of new landfill site Banchare Danda has mixed with the Kalphu Khola river.
“This is going to threaten the entire settlement,” Acharya said. “The situation will be worse in the rainy season.”
Acharya accused Kathmandu mayor Shah of picking up a fight with Singha Durbar when locals in the area under his jurisdiction have been suffering the consequences of unmanaged garbage.
Immediately after being elected Kathmandu’s new mayor last year, Shah had announced the management of Kathmandu’s garbage as his first priority, and promised to end the problems of Sisdole residents.
Chandra Bahadur Balami, former chair of ward-1 of Kakani Rural Municipality, said locals in the area still have to put up with foul smell, local crops have suffered, cattle are diseased and dead, the City is yet to build the promised 15-bed hospital.
“The Balen Shah administration is no different to the previous one headed by Bidya Sundar Shakya,” he said. “A year from now, Banchare Danda residents will have the same problems that Sisdole residents have had to deal for years due to KMC’s mismanagement.”
On Tuesday, the two local bodies came up with a joint statement giving the authorities 15 days to implement the agreement reached between the Urban Development Ministry, the KMC and the local units.
Based on the agreement, the ministry had allocated Rs17 million in the current fiscal year for embanking a local river and for planting trees.
But the works remain pending, according to locals.
The ministry had also announced plans to buy the lands of the locals of the affected area.
“None of the agreements has been addressed over the years,” said mayor Acharya.
In April last year, the KMC had reached a separate agreement with local authorities to make Sisdole and Banchare Danda a smell-free zone. The City had announced plans for a scientific study of the most affected areas in Sisdole and Banchare Danda.
But the local administration says it is unaware of any kind of such study being conducted by the KMC.
Some other points mentioned in the agreement included improving the quality of education at local schools, launching a programme to help locals in agriculture, and conducting an environmental impact assessment (EIA).
“These all promises were limited to paper. We have not seen any EIA report either,” said Acharya.
Until last year, the KMC would dump garbage at the Sisdole landfill, even though it had reached its capacity several years ago. Sisdole lies around 27 km to the west of Kathmandu.
The new Banchare Danda landfill is just 1.9km west of Sisdole, but local authorities worry there might be more problems at the new site than there were at the old site if the KMC keeps neglecting their concerns.
To improve things at both Banchare Danda and Kathmandu, Mayor Shah had announced to segregate garbage at the source from mid-June last year, but his plan did not succeed.
Kathmandu Valley generates 1,200 tonnes of solid waste a day. Nearly 60 percent of it is produced within the Kathmandu Metropolitan City. Experts say over 60 percent of the organic waste originating in the Valley can be converted into compost manure. Of the remaining 40 percent, 30 percent of non-biodegradable waste can be sold to recyclers.
Meanwhile, the meeting between the Ministry of Urban Development and Kathmandu Metropolitan City on Wednesday could not make any headway in resolving the issue of the uncollected garbage at Singha Durbar and other VIP addresses.
Giving a briefing of Wednesday's meeting, Pradeep Pariyar, joint secretary and spokesperson for the Ministry of Urban Development, said the meeting, attended by KMC Chief Executive Officer Basanta Adhikari and ministry officials, was inconclusive.
“We are working to convene a meeting between the urban development minister and the Kathmandu mayor,” said Pariyar. But he didn’t say when the meeting would take place.
Earlier, Shah had given a list of 14 initiatives he took with several ministries that went in vain. He has claimed that he repeatedly tried to resolve issues related to road widening, encroachment of footpaths by Kathmandu-based foreign embassies, drinking water supply, illegal settlements, and traffic light management, among others.
The ongoing dispute and lack of cooperation between the Kathmandu mayor and the Singha Durbar, and the joint statement of the two local units have left experts and urban planners worried. They said this could jeopardise rule of law.
In his conversation with the Post last week, constitutional expert and senior advocate Dinesh Tripathi said if the ongoing dispute is not resolved quickly through dialogue, it may invite a crisis in the federal system that has envisioned cooperation between the three tiers of the governments.
Tripathi added that if one tier of the government does not cooperate with the others, the whole federal system could be at risk.
Although waste management is an old problem in Kathmandu, this is probably the first time the metropolitan city administration has decided not to collect garbage from the country’s administrative hub and other VIP addresses. And the 15-day ultimatum issued by the local units is likely to make the situation more complicated.
“The KMC should honour all the agreements reached with the locals,” said Kishore Thapa, a former government secretary who is also an urban planner.
He said before the situation takes a serious turn, all stakeholders should sit at the negotiating table. “The ongoing tussle between the KMC with the federal government does not send a good message, so it has to be settled as soon as possible through talks,” said Thapa.
On Monday, a writ petition was filed at the Supreme Court against Kathmandu Metropolitan City and the federal government over the failure to collect waste from Singh Durbar.
Advocate Padam Shrestha had filed the petition making the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers and KMC Mayor Shah as defendants.
Article 30 of Nepal’s Constitution has listed the ‘right to clean environment’ as one of the fundamental rights. It says every citizen shall have the right to live in a clean and healthy environment.
Advocate Shrestha in his writ petition demanded the federal and local governments to ensure clean environment as per the Solid Waste Management Act 2011. Chapter 2 of the act states that it is the responsibility of the local government to manage solid waste.