Five years on, state still undecided on squatter resettlement plan

- Post Report, Kathmandu

May 9, 2016-

Five years after a failed attempt to evict the squatters from a public land at Thapathali in Kathmandu, the government has been struggling to find an alternative space to relocate them.

The government has no concrete plans as to how and where to relocate the squatters. Squatters from across the country on Sunday held a national conference where they raised the issue of resettlement.

 “We are landless people and we live in places which by no means are healthy or convenient. But every now and then the government threatens us to drive us away from our dwellings,” said Bimala Tamang, chairperson Nepal Mahila Ekta Samaj, an organisation working for the rights of squatters and slum dwellers.

Tamang said it was the duty of the government to manage shelter for the homeless.

In May, 2012, the then government had mobilised more than 2,000 security personnel to pull down the shanty settlement erected by landless squatters on the banks of Bagmati River. A total of 251 huts were demolished that day. The move, however, did not help the government’s cause of freeing the government-held properties from the squatters. The number of squatter families was much too large for the authorities to handle.

Records show that 1,082 of the 8,000 families living along the Bagmati banks had registered themselves as real squatters and 67  families among them were from Thapathali area.

The governments in the past have made several unsuccessful attempts to address the problem of squatters. Twenty-one commissions have already been formed to solve the problem, but none managed to do so. 

Suman Chaudhary, leader of squatters movement in the country, accused the government of sticking its nose where it was not required. “We are hard working people who have chosen this place to make our home as it is convenient for us to work in any part of the city. Instead of coming up with policies to boost the economic status of landless people like us, the government has time and again been uprooting our base,” Chaudhary said. 

Various reports claim that there are around 40 squatter settlements with 2,735 households in Kathmandu alone. 

A 2013 UN Habitat report states that the increase of slum settlements in cities are due to natural disasters and conflict. 

Although the government has come up with a plan to give houses to squatters away from the city area at Ichangu Narayan where the houses are priced at Rs 1.2 to 1.3 million each, the squatters have objected to the high price and the locality. 

According to Raju Tamang, the general secretary of Society for Preservation of Shelter and Habitation in Nepal, the government does not have a clear solution or a roadmap regarding squatter resettlement.

“Although the government has decided to give houses to squatters in Ichangu Narayan, the houses are priced very high by the standards of the squatter families,” he said. 

Published: 09-05-2016 08:08

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