Our Roads And Traffic

Prem Khatry

 

We have a long history if compared to the several nations in the region, and the good part of this record is that we are always making one. It is not our Constitution, not the three female heads, who have made hat trick last year, and not the number of evergreen CA-cum Parliament members we have elected never to give them a rest even after the promulgation of the Constitution. It is in the field of roads, and more roads and the way we keep them for public use whether here in the capital or in the countryside.  Our roads have been the worst examples of our identity, our culture and our civilisation.

When Nepal began to build roads, whether here in and around the capital or outside, the founding uncles were looking at the number of vehicles that plied on them on that particular moment. If that happened in the 1950’s and 60’s, the same philosophy and trend worked later on as well. This is the reason why technicians and administrations are in trouble when it comes to expand the roads. Often a bold Prime Minister appears to do the work but he doesn’t last long and gives in for a weaker successor. In the whole of the capital, only two major (Kantipath-Budhanilkantha, Maitighar-tinkune) and a few minor roads such as Dilli Bazaar-Sinamangal, Lazimpat-Naya Bazaar-Chakrapath were upgraded and standardised. They have been the landmarks of the capital city.  

Despite the size and shape of the road, vehicles import is always on the rise. Vexing traffic problem has not been an agenda of the government when it comes to import them. After long waiting and disturbances, the taxis of Kathmandu have shown the way for other types yet that does not seem to happen in any foreseeable future. Transportation has been one of the most important yet worst run sectors in ‘new’ Nepal.  The notion here is as old as the time itself.

 

True story

Kathmanduites are now feeling the growing need of spending the Saturdays and other holidays in green and clean areas and come home in the evening with a supply of some fresh and unpolluted air in the lungs. But the irony is that as you happen to enter from any point of your choice you cannot reach home on time. There are not many options for one-day tourists.  Since China road is in ruins you cannot go far to that end. Kakani is not a pleasant ride. Mudhe or Chautara are better options for one day tourists and holiday makers.

On Saturday, a trip to Chautara, a panoramic view of Gauri-Shankar and other mountains from different points of the road was unforgettable. The time was right and the weather perfect.  But that happiness ended at the Sanga Gate in the early hours of the evening while returning home.

The two-lane road designed decades ago could not just hold the flow of the incoming and outgoing vehicles. It took more than an hour to reach Jagati to face yet another traffic jam. The final and most vexing traffic jam was in waiting at the Jaributi-Koteshwar sector. At one point it seemed like not home but a reasonably hotel could be the sojourn for the night. Again, the sweet memory of the pleasant holiday was turned into a very unpleasant evening.

 

Potholes and what not

Potholes – small, medium to large – are very permanent features of our road network in Kathmandu, or outside. Just the other day, the Parliament had to make a special agenda to ‘instruct’ the Department of Road that all holes must be filled in within one month. It seems it is heck of a job for the government to do this without ‘foreign aid’. Otherwise, why no authority could see, feel and do the needful at a time when the holes at places are risky, danger and insulting. What would the donor nations stationed here in the capital in the form of their missions think when they pass by these seemingly dangerous spots? Perhaps nothing because they know Nepal’s strange and unique ‘procurement’ laws. 

If you ever drive by Hotel Shangri – La and take a turn towards Raniban you can sink in the middle of the road if your sense does not work on time that there are also bends stalking you. The holes here are larger than Nepal-India trade deficit. What it takes is a few materials and half hour to repair them. There is nothing Herculean about it. It is the eyes of the authorities that have not been there for a long time. Strangely, there is no reporting system in our society. 

 

Bull of Asan

Passengers travelling on the Ascol-Gongabu road are facing menace for more than a year. The road expansion project has gone through several revisions. One can see the read mark with erased/written/rewritten digits suggesting the size of the extension. But reportedly an adamant leader, almost like the Bull of Asan sits on the corner at the southern end, does not budge to allow demolition of his front part. Others are taking advantage of this bullying leader and the original extension plan has not worked all the way to Gongbu Chowk. It is shameful to say the least because there have been several other adamant house owners along the stretch. For ten months the road has been pumping dust into the lungs of tens of thousands of passengers and people living around the road.

Finally, are there separate laws governing separate roads to be expanded in the same municipality? Can these roads be completed without footpath just because some adamant owners wouldn’t allow expansion? Can one individual challenge the municipality or the government and stop development works? It is sheer nonsense if this happens. These are also the people who contribute largely to make the city ugly. Unless and until the long hands of law reach the neck of such persons, nothing expected can happen.    

 

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