Print Edition - 2012-08-21  |  Development

Victim of unplanned urbanisation

- PRAGATI SHAHI, Kathmandu
Victim of unplanned urbanisation

Aug 20, 2012-

The Kathmandu valley, one of the fastest growing cities worldwide, is facing severe socio-economic and environmental threats in the absence of a clear and comprehensive planning and land use policy, according to planners.

Rapid expansion of the urban environment, coupled with unmanaged settlements and unplanned development, has led the Capital to suffer from air pollution, water pollution, traffic congestion, haphazard solid waste disposal and the loss of a rich cultural heritage.

“A decade ago, planners had never imagined that the valley would go through the extreme pressures of rapid urbanisation and population growth as it has now,” said Uttar Kumar Regmi, chief of the Kathmandu Metropolitan City.

Various studies and researches on urban planning in Kathmandu Valley suggest that the urban expansion trend, previously confined to the peri-urban areas, started in the 1970s with the initiation of road expansion and development activities.

 A report prepared by Rajesh Bahadur Thapa and Yuji Murayama—Spatial Structure of Land Use Dynamics in Kathmandu Valley—states that the agricultural landscape transformed dramatically following the rapid urbanisation of the 1970s and ‘80s, severely deteriorating agricultural and natural land vegetation. Statistics show that the rate of urbanisation was recorded at three percent in 1967 while it increased to 13 percent in 2000. Similarly, forest cover decreased from 23 to 17 percent in the same period. Similarly, in terms of land use, a 2001 study conducted by the municipal Kathmandu Valley Town Development Committee (KVTDC) showed that 32 percent of the region was forest while 40 percent was devoted to agriculture.  According to Regmi, the valley underwent rapid urbanisation and unplanned development patterns thanks to the poor vision of planners and the lack of an effective implementation of the existing urban development plans and programmes. Various places in Kathmandu Valley that were vacant or entirely used for residential purposes about 15 years ago in Koteshwor, Bhaktapur and Lalitpur have now been converted into commercial areas.

“We accept that there is a lack of a mechanism to ensure that constructions comply with building codes for safety and by-laws to maintain the ecological and social balance of the particular areas,” he said.

In the recent times, government authorities, along with donor agencies and partners, have started positive interventions to improve the urban status of the Valley and the surrounding areas. In the National Land Use Policy 2012, the government attempts to categorise one particular patch as either agricultural, residential, commercial, industrial, forest, public or necessity area. The KVTDC came up with a long-term development concept for the Valley that was approved by the government in 2002. The policy ensured planned development of the city by considering various aspects like delineating urban and rural boundaries so that separate planning standards could be enforced.

Meanwhile, in an effort to improve existing transport facilities, the Department of Roads, with support from the Asian Development Bank, is working to implement a sustainable urban transport project. According to Indu Sharma Dhakal, former director general of the DoR, the project will focus on providing dedicated electric bus lanes along various pilot routes on the Ring Road to minimise traffic congestion. 

“It’s certain that the Valley will continue to grow in future. The government and concerned authorities should enforce and implement an effective land use plan to address issues of unchecked urbanisation and population growth to avoid negative consequences,” said Regmi.

Published: 21-08-2012 08:07

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