The sorry state of Kathmandu’s roads has caused untold inconveniences to commuters and pedestrians alike. Especially in the monsoon, some road sections become virtually indistinguishable from ponds and fields. As a result, traffic congestion worsens and countless people get injured. But last week was probably the first time that a manhole in the Valley claimed an innocent life.
In an extremely tragic incident, 10-year-old Binita Phuyal from Nepaltar died on Friday after she fell into an open manhole on her way home from school. On the same day, Satya Sapkota, 13, was swept along a drain in Samakhushi. Fortunately, Sapkota was rescued by the locals. A video of Sapkota being washed down the drainage went viral on social media.
The public outrage following the incidents likely prompted Prime Minister Deuba to issue a directive to the concerned authorities to make all the roads of Kathmandu pothole-free within the next 15 days. He said the government was ready to allocate additional budget for the purpose. Deuba even warned that failure to do so will invite action against the concerned officials. The incidents also elicited a statement from the National Human Rights Commission, which expressed grave concern over the government’s inability to complete road construction, sewage management and pipe laying for the Melamchi Water Supply Project on time. The lack of coordination among various government departments has led to the digging of roads multiple times within a span of a few months.
The prime minster should be true to his word. He should closely follow up on the progress in road repair work. The cracks and crevices on the roads and the unmanaged drainage system in the Valley not only inconvenience people, but also pose a threat to life. It is a serious issue that is much more likely to be addressed if there is keen and constant interest from the country’s highest office.
Of course, the pathetic state of the Capital’s roads is part of a larger malaise afflicting the country’s polity. As we mentioned in yesterday’s editorial, the underutilisation of the capital budget for the greater part of the fiscal year and the surge in spending towards the end result in sub-standard infrastructure. In addition to issuing instruction on timely road repair—and hopefully following up on it—the prime minister should reflect (and act) on ways to fix Nepal’s spending woes that lead to shoddy infrastructure. Next year, we hope to give a positive assessment of the capital expenditure and infrastructure development in the fiscal year that has just begun.