Clearing the air

  • No longer choked by pollution, perhaps the Capital’s historical appeal will be rejuvenated

Jan 18, 2018-

The decision to declare Thamel a “vehicle-free area” in October proved a resounding success and set representatives from other traditional neighbourhoods like Ason, Indrachowk and Basantapur clamouring for similar initiatives. Now, their calls have been answered. The core city area of Kathmandu, which is home to several heritage sites and resident buildings with traditional architecture, has been declared off-limits for four-wheelers. 

Taking note of the positive results of the pilot programme in Thamel, various stakeholders including the Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) in association with the Metropolitan Traffic Police (MTPD) and local representatives have jointly decided to prohibit four-wheelers from entering places like Bhotahiti, Ason, Indrachowk, Bhedasing, Jyatha, Teuda, Thaiti and Kamalachhi between 7am to 7pm. 

The monuments and buildings in these areas display a range of historic and artistic achievements dating back centuries. But of late, these areas have been increasingly difficult to navigate, with four-wheelers blocking the narrow alleyways and streets that one has to traverse in order to reach the heritage sites. 

So this initiative to prohibit four-wheelers in the core city area is an important step toward reclaiming the open space that made Kathmandu such a tranquil destination decades ago. In the race for hectic modernisation, we have forgotten about our neighbourhoods, and we have brushed aside our historical architecture that earned Kathmandu the moniker of “city of gods”. Take for example the penetration of automobiles in the Valley, which have increased by around 800 fold in the past two decades. Movement is constantly hampered by the constant, haphazard movement of vehicles. Perhaps with this initiative, parts of the city will  no longer be choked by pollution, and perhaps the historical appeal of the core of Kathmandu will once again be rejuvenated.

The success of the initial programme to ban vehicles in Thamel means that the KMC and the MTPD now have access to a working model that they can replicate. As in the case of the pilot programme, ambulances, fire engines, water tankers, and dairy vehicles will be cleared for entry into the restricted areas. And in response to consternation regarding the delivery of essential supplies into the area, residents who own four-wheelers will be provided with entry passes. Outsiders visiting the area will have to park their cars either at designated areas. The MTPD has already started placing signals and signboards in 10 different places to notify motorists about the regulation and plans to conduct awareness programmes about the initiative as well. 

Of course, one can hardly expect that this initiative will be totally free of hiccups. But we are hopeful that the relevant stakeholders will act swiftly to address any concerns that are raised. It is about time that vehicle choked-Kathmandu reclaims its old tranquillity. At long last, we have embarked on a path to rejuvenate the Capital, and we must not stray from it. It is time for us to demand even more open walking space in Kathmandu and beyond. 

Published: 18-01-2018 07:43

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