Lamps and footpaths
- The prettying up of the streets for the upcoming Saarc Summit would be justified if the regional body were more than a dream
Oct 30, 2014-
Almost a month ago, while on a morning walk around Tundikhel, it was a pleasant surprise to see old lampposts being removed and replaced with new ones. Even more pleasant was the fact that it seemed to have dawned on our authorities that these new streetlights would be using solar power. This is as it should be, because of the almost everlasting acute power shortage in this country.
There are also reports that a number of places in west Nepal, mostly schools and other public institutions, have had the privilege of being fitted with solar power. But the installation of these solar power systems in the remote parts of the country may not all be the government’s initiative or in its expense; due credit might need to be given to some non-governmental organisations. It is to be expected that if national and international organisations undertook some of these tasks, they did so in a disinterested manner, mainly to benefit the people of the areas without seeking to gain anything in return. The solar street lights around Tundikhel followed similar changes on the Bhadrakali-Singha Durbar road and at Durbar Marg, which are really beautifully conceived and carried out.
Roads and bridges
Also, it seems that after ages of neglect, the authorities have decided to repair the pavements around Tundikhel, which were (and still are) in a sorry state, causing problems to pedestrians. Most of the dilapidated pavements are still to be repaired but with stacks of matching bricks stocked at damaged points, it is evident that they will be repaired soon. One might wonder why after so many years, some good sense has prevailed in our authorities, instigating them to make proper use of public money instead of spending it lavishly on ailing leaders.
But pedestrians still face problems in Tundikhel, with the uprooted old lamp posts lying along the pavements even after a month or so, impeding their movement. One cannot help but wonder why those responsible could not have removed the lamp posts from the pavements soon after they were taken out. It is strange that the thought never occurs to authorities at Singha Durbar or at the Bagh Durbar metropolitan office that such things inconvenience people and can be easily remedied. But as usual, everything is delayed.
Another unbelievable occurrence at Tundikhel is the pedestrian overhead bridge next to the old bus park and the Nepal Electricity Authority. The concrete infrastructure for the bridge has been in place for years now but until a few days ago, nothing had been done. Those who decided to construct the overhead bridge must have done more than enough homework, as the bridge now effectively creates a bottleneck for pedestrians. There is hardly any room on the pavement for pedestrians, as most of the space is taken up by the bridge. This is also true of some other overhead bridges in the Tundikhel area as the authorities—ever in need of funds—turn a blind eye to the needs of the people and rent out the space below the overhead bridges to shops, thereby crowding the small area. There are as many as nine pedestrian overhead bridges around Tundikhel, including one at Rani Pokhari. Is the placement of so many overhead bridges within a total distance of about 2.5 kilometres justified? Who gains or has gained from such constructions?
Justify the expenses
Apart from the Tundikhel area, there has been a lot of tidying up of the Singha Durbar Central Secretariat. Keeping Kathmandu clean and presentable should have been one of the foremost tasks of the local government. All the face-lifting activities these days, however, are not to benefit local people but to impress dignitaries during the forthcoming 18th Saarc Summit scheduled to be held in the second half of November. The cost of holding the Summit is no doubt high for Nepali taxpayers but it could have been justified had the regional body been serious about carrying out the accords it has reached from time to time. The South Asian body was set up in December 1985 but in the almost 29 years since then, it has little to show as achievements.
Many in Nepal were ardent supporters of the regional body. They had hoped that it would benefit the region economically but as the time went by, squabbling between the two powerful countries of the region retarded any real progress in the region. Differences among Saarc countries will always be there but they could have moved forward collectively in the interest of the peoples of the region. This, of course, reminds us of the situation in our own country, where the main political parties are at loggerheads with each other and are unable to come to an understanding in the larger interest of the country and the constitution. Everything that is now being done to the streets of Nepal at the expense of the people’s money would be justified if the leaders of the Saarc countries realised that the peoples of the region will lose their faith in the regional body if the present trend in Saarc continues. Let’s hope that the Saarc will not stay a mirage.
Published: 31-10-2014 09:39