The Bagmati Beautification Drive
Balaram Sharma Chaulagain
Clean and cool are the words with which the people used to describe the Bagmati River until some four decades ago. The river originates at the Bagdwar in the Shivapuri hills to the north of Kathmandu, takes in water from Shyalmati and Nagmati, meanders down to Sundarijal and heads towards the Chovar gorge. Many Hindus in Nepal and rest of the world refer Bagmati as ‘Mother Ganga’. Bagmati River in Nepal is believed to be a greatest Hindu pilgrimage site of all Hindus across world. But in the last few years, the river has become a dumping ground for solid and liquid waste product of Kathmandu Valley.
Keeping this in mind, a High Powered Committee for Integrated Development of the Bagmati Civilisation (HPCIDBC) was approved as a flagship programme by the then government in fiscal year 2051/52B.S. Since its establishment, this committee is entrusted with the full responsibility of Bagmati clean-up campaign. It comes under the aegis of Ministry of Urban Development. The Bagmati River, which is respected as a source of Nepali civilisation and urbanisation holds a special place in our national culture. As per Hindu mythology and legends, Bagmati is believed to be greater than other rivers of Nepal. In the bygone days, Bagmati was clean and pure enough to drink. Bagmati River attracts scores of Hindus from all over the world, who traditionally purify themselves in the holy water of Bagmati.
Bagmati, on which the Kathmandu Valley thrived for generations, needs to be properly restored to its original value. For the protection of Kathmandu Valley’s civilisation, Bagamti River must be cleaned up in its original state of ancient period. Efforts have been applied from all sectors of life to restore Bagmati in her original state of crystal clear and pure. The Bagmati clean-up drives so far picked uncountable tons of waste from Bagmati and her tributaries. Still the pathetic plight of Bagmati and other rivers inside Kathmandu Val ley continues to proliferate. So long as we fail to garner public participation from project ongoing area high sounding slogans and propagandas from government side yields nothing. For this, a pragmatic plan of action with public private partnership (PPP) should be sought to accomplish the gigantic task of cleaning Bagmati and her beautification process. Till date, government has failed to seek help from public residing across Bagmati corridor and adjoining areas like Jorpati, Gothatar, Buddha and such others places. Bagmati River Basin (BRB) with its profound value has also great economic importance as it plays a crucial role in meeting the water supply requirement of Kathmandu Valley and downstream settlements.
Bagmati, Bishnumati, Manohara, etc. are the rivers of Kathmandu Valley with significant religious and cultural faith inside Kathmandu and its surroundings. Rivers pollution in the valley dates back to 2046/47BS, when the mixing up of sewage into the river started. The pressure of population and haphazard urbanization growing in the valley, paddy fields and forests have given way to concrete clusters, and the Bagmati River has turned into a receptacle for the effluents coming out of human settlements. In the absence of appropriate sewage collection and waste water treatment plants, the rivers have become the main collector of drain, solids deposited on the banks of rivers also aggravate the further pollutions. HPCIDBC with its development partners like Depart of irrigation, Asian Development Bank (ADB) has already initiated ‘Bagmati River Basin Improvement Project (BRBIP)’ with strategic agendas of environmentally sustainable growth and development through public private partnership (PPP).
The prime object of project is to mitigate the degree of pollution with slogan of ‘Bagmati Beautification’. The BRBIP project aims to complete the whole scheme by Feb 2020 with total cost of 36 million US dollar. But it is an irony to note that HPCIDBC is facing challenges from local farmers. The land acquisition pr ocess in the project ongoing area has not been completed so far. HPCIDBC has to pay farmers of local community for the compensation of their personal land along the site of Guheswori to Gokarna of Kathmandu district. Hence, problems have cropped up in acquiring the personal land of project continuing area. At the beginning, HPCIDBC had forcefully encroached upon over 150 Ropanis of private land without paying the cost of land for compensation.
The voiceless, powerless and marginalised poor farmers are claiming for the loss they have had to incur. The then government or the HPCIDBC officials had violated the Land Acquisition Act 1977(2034 BS). So long as the government does not pay the appropriate value of private land in Bagmati beautification area, people will not cooperate in the process of beautification; the agony being faced by farmers is intolerable. The HPCIDBC with its development partners is on the way to construct Nagmati dam in Dhap area of Kathmandu to harvest rain water for watershed management during dry seasons. This scheme is believed to be a precursor for slowing down the scarcity of flowing water in Bagmati during dry seasons. In some extent it will help to flush the garbage and reduce bad smell in river but what about the debt upon the head of poor people?
There is waste treatment plant in operation, although it has not worked as anticipated. Besides, different events are also held to remind the people of the importance of restoring river to its original glory. If the plans that are in place are actually implemented, the river will see a facelift for sure. Let us hope in the days to come Bagmati and her sister rivers inside Kathmandu valley will be cleaned. Besides, the grievances of the poor local farmers who are constantly fighting since two decades for the compensation of their encroached land will also be addressed.