Weekly Musings Beware Of The Threat

 

Shyam K.C.

            This scribe was more than pleased to read one of the letters to the editors in this newspaper the other day. In the letter column on Saturday (4 February 2017), one Mukunda Karki wrote about the sad plight that the area around Sankata temple is bound to encounter in the future because of the way in which a thick coat of cement has been laid in the rather extensive open area which should have been green.

The fact that attention of Karki was drawn towards the after-effects of such measures taken by the local, central and even international authorities points to the growing awareness of the common people towards the way in which many projects in the country are planned and executed. The fact that the project at the Sankata area is also sponsored by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) should open the eyes of ordinary citizens towards the motive behind international funding. The project as a whole is known as the Kathmandu Urban Transport Development Project.  Such projects tend to throw questions on the international agencies that fund different projects in developing countries including Nepal. The question that need to be seriously asked is how really concerned are these agencies towards the real needs of the developing countries. Do they seriously delve into the long term consequences of the projects they fund? It is in the interest of concerned countries to seriously taker into account the reasoning behind international agencies’ funding of different big and small projects.

Suitability

The Sankata project is mainly the responsibility of the Kathmandu municipality and whatever is done in the Sankata area is under its purview. Since the present project is not merely that of the municipality but is also funded by the government, among others, it is the responsibility of the government agencies to determine whether the project is best suited to the city environment. According to some of those who have taken keen interest in the execution of the project, the point raised by Mukunda Karki in his letter is redundant as provisions have been made in the project to place several outlets in the concrete flat area to ensure that water is sipped to the ground. We are all carried away by the grandeur and, projected rationale of any project. But the reality is quite different.

The most important case in point is the plight of the historic Sundhara. The construction of a building by the Employees Provident Fund effectively blocked the flow of water and the non-stop flow of water in Sundhara became a history. The people even during what is now described autocratic Panchayat regime opposed the building and the Panchayayat rulers did not allow the construction. Post-1990 restoration of western style multi-party democracy, the Kathmandu municipality under Mayor P L Singh did not allow the construction. But with his departure and the installation of a new mayor, things suddenly took a turn for the worse and the building with all its illegal structures, (it is surprising that the authorities close their eyes on these illegal structures), stood up and the flow water to Sundhara was totally blocked. The living and lively Sundhara was thus murdered.

The reconstruction of Ranipokhari has commenced and this is done the easy way by blocking the flow of water there. The water that is blocked must, by simple logic, find other outlets and diversions. It may be difficult to bring back the water flow to Ranipokhari. Let’s hope that those who have undertaken the reconstruction know what they are doing and above all we all hope that the Ranipokhari pond regains its past glory. The reason for skepticism is that many of the projects undertaken in the country seem to be spur of the moment jobs rather than well planned, thought out and well researched ones. The intention in most cases is good and taken in the interest of the people. For instance, there is a rule that says it is illegal to draw water from underground without permission. Yet how many of us get the legal permission from the right authorities? There are reports that the level of underground water has depleted to a great extent. One wonders if the recent road curve-in in Naxal Bhagwati could have been due to the depletion of the underground water. A thorough scientific investigation about this is required to safeguard the valley.

Eye opener

 The project at Sankata area may not be just a solitary incident that can have a long term environmental effect in the valley, specially in the core areas of the three cities that must be protected in order to maintain this country’s identity. It is only when the ordinary people become aware of consequences of the various over-expensive but doubtful projects and their implications that we can protect ourselves. The Mukunda Karki letter should be an eye opener to all of us.

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