Kathmandu After Two Decades
Kathmandu is not the place I knew twenty years ago. It has become unbelievably crammed, not only within the ring road but also outside the ring road. Constructions are so chaotic that may take any visitor’s breath away. All the arable land has been ferociously occupied by the concrete houses. All the roads and gullies seem to be filled with pedestrians as if they are pilgrimaging to the temple.
Not that too long ago, after my SLC exams in 1995 from a high school in the countryside of the Jhapa district, I came to Kathmandu to spend my spare time until the SLC results. Then, Kathmandu was not that much littered and the construction did not seem to be that rapid and random, nor was the population density encroaching. The area of Ghattekulo and Anamnagar, where I rented a room for a few months was spacious at places where student drivers used to learn driving cars or riding motorcycles. Teenagers played Cricket there. People thronged in there to bask in the sun at times. The sun-beams could peep through the windows of almost everyone’s houses. Sundhara, Swaymbhu, Tundikhel, royal palace, Pashupatinath and other important places could be viewed clearly while sitting atop the house/building. Mostly, the sky was azure. Green was the horizon. Then, Bagmati, hanumati, and other rivers and rivulets rarely invited masks to be worn to prevent the odor and dusts. Most of the places in the Kathmandu valley were not that much polluted as of today.
It has been around two decades now, one may also consider it as the length of time that did not hold the local election in Nepal. It was 1997 when Nepal had hold the local election last time that expired in 2002. After 18 years, we had the local election in 2017.
In almost two decades’ time period, my individual and social status seems to be genuinely improved. In a deeper level, my understanding comes out to be a fallacy when I connect my personal success to the condition of my country. Let me explain it.
Personally speaking, I graduated from a university in Nepal, taught at a college, left for the USA to further my education, pursued my PhD in the US, taught at a US college, drove a nice car, plotted a land in Kathmandu and made a house. It was a gigantic leap from the countryside where I used to work in the farm to the capital where I made a sweet home. Has it brought enough happiness to me in terms of my quality of life? No, indeed!
Recently, I was back to my sweet home in Kathmandu from the USA to learn how aghast Kathmandu has become.
One day, I went to the tax office in Kathmandu with one of my friends to see how they make money under the table that made me emotional but could do nothing.
Next day, I rode a motorcycle behind my cousin who drove me around, in and out the ring road of the valley where I experienced terrible suffocation.
Kathmandu is not the place I knew twenty years ago. It has become unbelievably crammed, not only within the ring road but also outside the ring road. Constructions are so chaotic that may take any visitor’s breath away. All the arable land has been ferociously occupied by the concrete houses. All the roads and gullies seem to be filled with pedestrians as if they are pilgrimaging to the temple. Looking at the pedestrians crossing the road at the traffic light with the help of a traffic police gives a hair raising feeling if they would stampede. The space where driving students used to drive cars seem to be a far cry from reality. The pollution has gripped the breath of every living organism. The residents of Kathmandu seem to have hardly inhaled clean air. The dust and dirt in the air of the valley may make anyone ill instantly. Kathmandu roads are uneven and erratic and pathetically littered. The sky is rarely blue and the horizon is hardly green. Population seems to be dramatically increasing and so are the numbers of vehicles while the roads are becoming smaller and unmanageable. Even the busiest roads are destroyed, uneven and have large potholes. Clean drinking water seems to be a chimera. All the rivers and rivulets in the valley are filled with gutter, plastic bags, human excreta and sewages. Hoarding boards are randomly exhibited atop the dilapidated and age old buildings in the valley. A bus takes almost two hours in a 7 miles distance to arrive that is from Kalanki to Koteswar. The atmosphere in the valley seems to be completely ruined and suffocated. Poverty is rampant in the streets as begging hands are seen and hundreds of people seem to be hospitalized daily in the valley.
I, who never had a single health problem during my stay in the USA, took antibiotics to cure my sore-throat and tonsillitis at the moment. I gargled my throat for three days without any clue that it would be cured and was hospitalized. It shows that without improving the environmental and physical condition of the place where one lives in, one can never improve their quality of life. A quality of life of a person should guarantee the person’s health, comfort, and happiness that can be obtained by improving the physical and environmental conditions of the place.
With that said, the mayor of Kathmandu, no matter which party wins should contemplate the deteriorating conditions of Kathmandu and its adverse effects on the lives of humans and how human health is jeopardized by the environmental conditions of Kathmandu.
Now it is a high time that each representatives of the local bodies should positively impact the lives of the locals, women, disabled, and marginalized community while enhancing the environmental and physical conditions of the place. They, no matter who becomes a mayor of Kathmandu, should endeavor to make Kathmandu a model for another place. Leaving the politics of polemic and keeping the hubris and ambitious winning spree aside, the mayor should do things diligently so any visitor who comes to visit Nepal would say just “wow” and every Nepali citizen could have the moment of pride, could live a happy and quality life.