Planning Things In Perspective

Prem Khatry

 

Can Nepal afford to make serious mistakes in planning and suffer? This issue may take days of high level deliberations to come to a consensus that something has gone terribly wrong in the way we forge our development plans ahead. The desirable dictum in proper planning is: listen to the people, bring their agenda in the mainstream planning and start implementing them on the basis of priority, the available budget and materials and necessary manpower to be deployed for the successful and timely completion of the project. If these necessary planning features are considered beforehand, there is no reason why there are so many issues appearing in the development horizon one after another making the project a failure.

Urgent needs
This has been observed that a large percentage of our plans fall victim to the ill-famous ‘Pappu’ style hands and invite the attention of the media. Then only the country and countrymen get to know about the real story behind the work. This has been more or less a ‘culture’ in contemporary Nepal – accept the work through weak means, proceed with it in a weaker fashion and complete or leave the work with the weakest outcome. The writer will touch upon few areas where planning of the concerned stakeholders have been instrumental in addressing and fulfilling the urgent needs of the people.
People want to forget the painful experience of the hand-drawn string cable ferries (tuin) hanging dangerously across many rivers – from Dhading district, a neighbour to the capital, Kathmandu and many hilly districts of the country as far in the west as Darchula, Baitadi, and other hill districts. School children, vegetable growers, milk sellers and passengers have fallen into the fast speed rivers below to disappear forever. Think also of the would be victims crossing the dangerous roads and law-ignoring passers-by of Kathmandu in areas such as Gaushala, Chabhil, Maharajgunj, Balaju, Swayambhu, Satdobato along the ring road and many such crossings inside the city of Kathmandu.
These vulnerable spots do not actually need huge ‘urban’ looking heavy structures like the ones we had at Kalanki. Didn’t the government know that after all the structure would fall victim to the road expansion project underway? What will happen to the one overhead at Gongabu in the near future? It is everyone’s guess – it will go sooner than later. This defines how plans are made haphazardly, offered to the bidder indiscreetly and then given a public show to the people shockingly. What is at stake here is people’s tax money gone wrong.
We are talking about incidents around the capital or its vicinity where it is not easy to hide things from eyes of the media – national and others. This particularly is an area where the then (and also now) PM KP Sharma Oli gave serious attention and vowed to end the dangerous and yet compulsory life of the local population hung on the single rope above the river. Few improvements have been seen in these nearby places but school children and other villagers keep facing accidental deaths in far regions on regular basis as these death traps also happen to the life line of these fateful people.
A special research team can be entrusted to list such failed projects for the purpose of the lessons learnt. But can we afford to not repeat such mistakes? There are doubts. There are perhaps less number of bidders in construction field with the level of sincerity required at this hour. There are more who are first made to surrender their ‘under the table’ type plans before actual work begins. Insiders say the guy is bound to functions as a ‘feeder’ to a chain of ‘takers/receivers’ stalking on various modes with empty bags and wide open eyes fixed on his/her purse.
Given the state-of-the-art of public works and their fate, there was unique news the other day. Despite the call of the PM’s office to put the development projects in one ‘basket’ many ministries have been adamant and turned their ear deaf to this circular. Where is the word called ‘discipline’ we once learnt by heart with the teacher standing in front waving a stick ready to dance on our head or palm? The hard learnt lesson is always useful in our life if we remember the tough face and yet a kind heart inside. There is big news we read about the delayed submission of the ministerial asset forms to the PM’s office. These two news items make the people disappointed to say the least.
We hear the PM also has a corps of advisors and well-wishers in his kitchen cabinet. Some names are publicly known; there might be more in the shadow. One glaring example against the main issue raised here – planning - needs mention. This is because this shows the lack of priority list in development and lack of concern in sensitive issues.
First, while doing an Impact Assessment on a construction at the Lumbini Garden this writer found that the construction of a huge complex was going on without an assessment prior to the construction. What do the advisors do when issues like this are brought to the notice of the high profile dignitaries? Second, the PM recently laid the foundation of a ‘dry port’ at Chobhar. The budget is naturally big. This space, once constructed, is going to be used for railway consignments. But where is the rail in the first place? We are all told it is coming, sooner than later.

Priority
Finally, this is a construction that could be started even when we hear the train whistling from, say, Kakani, or from Malta in the south. Leveling the ground, putting high security fences, raising few air-conditioned and more general go-downs are facilities we need to have. We have excellent construction companies at work. They could complete such facilities in no time. Diverting the budget to other urgent development works such as the houses for the quake victims or suspension bridges for the time being would have been better choices. We seem to ignore the priority and turn our ears deaf.

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