Step up your game

  • The government should give sports the due attention it deserves

Feb 5, 2019-

Following Dhurmus-Suntali Foundation’s announcement of their plans to construct the multi-purpose Gautam Buddha International Cricket Stadium in Chitwan last week, a memorandum of understanding with Bharatpur Metropolitan City (BMC) was signed. As per the agreement, the social organisation led by comedians Sitaram Kattel and Kunjana Ghimire would oversee the construction of the stadium on the government-owned Agriculture and Forestry University in Chitwan. Following its completion, the stadium would then be handed over to the Bharatpur municipality.

While the Foundations’ sporting efforts to invest in infrastructure for athletes in the country should be lauded—especially as a modern stadium of international standard is long-overdue—the fact that the government is simply jumping on an existing project rather than doing the hard work themselves should be noted. Sports in Nepal has been overtly neglected for years. In the last six fiscal years, the money allocated for sports development has accounted for less than 1 percent of the total budget. The industry has also been marred by corruption, mismanagement, and dismissal. And this has collectively manifested in several failed stadiums and sports grounds throughout the years.

Case in point: Baitadi Dasharath Chand Municipality cricket ground. The ground, famously known for hosting the first Indo-Nepal cricket tournament in 1994 and heralded for its crucial role in producing many national cricketers in the Sudurpaschim Province, has now become home to several cow corners (and unfortunately, not in cricketeering terms). Due to financial irregularities, mismanagement, and bureaucratic disputes between governmental teams and construction companies, the ground that once played a pivotal role in contributing to the development of Nepali cricket, remains idle today as a batsmen-barren grazing field.

Dasarath Rangashala, Nepal’s only international-standard stadium, suffered a similar fate. The showpiece stadium was badly damaged during the 2015 Gorkha earthquake and three years later, it continues to disintegrate as reconstruction efforts have been painstakingly slow. The government has cited ‘lack of funds’ and bureaucratic disputes as the reasoning behind the snail-inch progress. The concerned authorities’ indulgence in pointing fingers instead of finding a solution resulted in the 13th South Asian Games, slated to be held in Nepal in March 2018, being postponed.

As Dhurmus-Suntali begins breaking ground for the Gautam Buddha International Cricket Stadium, the government must make concrete plans to ensure that a transparent, proactive and sustainable governmental authority will be capable of managing the project when it is handed over. In the years to come, the authority must respect a fundamental fact about the foundation of the stadium: it was built as a product of collective public demand and a lack of existing infrastructure. The public mobilised to ensure that a much-needed investment of this scale in the sporting sector would be carried through—because the commitment was not demonstrated by the government, to begin with.

As much as this stadium is a charitable gift from the Dhurmus-Suntali foundation and represents what the Bharatpur Mayor Renu Dahal claimed was a key example of  ‘public-private partnership’, it comes with a clear expectation: the government must step up its game and ensure that the enthusiasm and proactiveness that they have clearly displayed for the project is also directed towards other investments and efforts in Nepal’s often overlooked sport sector.

Published: 05-02-2019 07:22

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