On the sidelines

  • Efforts to beautify Kathmandu should continue beyond the Saarc Summit
On the sidelines

Nov 6, 2014-

For a regional body that is almost 30 years old, Saarc does not have much to show. It is frequently referred to as a club of eight inactive nations—Afganistan, a recent addition—and is under constant scrutiny. Until Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi showed greater interest in his neighbourhood after coming to power in May, Saarc seemed to be lost in the wilderness. Still, contrary to its inefficient reputation, the upcoming 18th Saarc Summit, scheduled for November 26-27 in Kathmandu, has prompted Nepali authorities to work rather diligently in beautifying the city.

Solar lights have been installed along various stretches across the city—Tribhuvan International Airport-Maitighar, Thapathali-Soaltee Mode, Maitighar-City Hall, and Tundikhel-Ranipokhari. Shrubs and trees have been hastily planted alongside the roads while eyesore-hoarding boards are being removed. The government has even provided funds to paint private houses alongside major roads in the Capital. Some people on Twitter have been quick to point out that the only thing left to do now is to plant apple and orange trees laden with ripe fruits, as was done during the regional visits of the king during the monarchy. Others joke that the beautification of the city might confuse visiting dignitaries into thinking that Nepal is a developed country. More practical city residents have suggested that the authorities not forget to water the plants once the Summit is over.

While the mockery of the government’s efforts is understandable, Kathmandu has undoubtedly changed for the better. The Tinkune bus stand, which earlier used to be shrouded in darkness in the evenings, is now a brighter place. Streetlights, powered by solar batteries, are visible at night till the farthest distance towards Baneshwor. It is a pleasing sight in a city which is perennially power hungry. This is also testimony to the immense possibilities to beautify Kathmandu with a little bit of will power and imagination.

The government, for its part, insists that it will continue lighting up the Valley even after the Summit. The idea, for now, is to install solar lights in heritage sites like the Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Lalitpur Durbar Squares. But city authorities should also give continuity to their drive to remove hoarding boards and clear walls of political sloganeering. Those disregarding repeated calls to remove illegal billboards that flout height and location regulations should be strictly dealt with. Authorities need to build upon the progress made for the Summit, rather than wasting resources to do the same thing again and again. The Maitighar Mandala, which was built in 2002 in the run-up to the 11th Saarc Summit in Kathmandu, could serve as an example. As for city dwellers, refraining from littering the city, as well as spitting and urinating all around, could go a long way. It is time beautifying Kathmandu became everyone’s business.

Published: 07-11-2014 09:25

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