On the way to Rasuwa, development works are leaving a trail of destruction

KATHMANDU : People come across heaps of garbage on the roadside while heading towards Satdobato from Koteshwor in the Capital. But the sight was quiet different on November 22, 2019. The roads were clean on the way to Satdobato. The waste and plastics had already been collected and the sweepers had already swept the dust off the roads.

Satdobato before and during SAG Games.

There used to be piles of garbage all the time in front of All Nepal Football Association (ANFA) complex. It seems like the local government had started paying attention to cleaning the roads. But later I realized that the local government had started cleaning the roads for the upcoming 13th South Asian Games that kicked off in Kathmandu on December 1. There were no traces of garbage on the way to Balkhu from Satdobato. But as we crossed Balkhu, we started seeing dusty roads and piles of garbage on the roadside. The scene was quiet similar while heading towards Thankot from Kalanki.

The leaves of the plants that were planted on the roadside had started drying and dropping off the plants due to lack of water and the smoke emitted from the vehicles. The situation was similar up to Thankot. Why didn’t the government pay attention to cleaning which should have been a regular affair? Why does the local authority turn a blind eye to this problem? This has become enigmatic issue.

This is not only the problem of Kathmandu. The cities outside the Kathmandu Valley are also facing the same problem. As we crossed Thankot, we noticed not just the problem of garbage but activities that are detrimental to the environment. We can see the smoke emitted from various factories and brick kilns covering the village. Many brick kilns were found operating illegally in many places. These problems compelled us to think for the solution while travelling to Rasuwa from Kathmandu last week.  The environment is being degraded in every sector at an alarming rate. It reflected our apathy towards the environment.

Development works, especially road construction and expansion, are making significant progress, which is a positive sign. Old and dilapidated houses have turned into concrete houses. Roads are being expanded in a beautiful way in many places. But the environment is also being destroyed in the name of development. The time has come to think that whether these places will be appropriate for the next generation to live or not.

The dozer has cut down hills for road construction in a haphazard manner. None of the concerned agency has any idea about how much should be dug up to construct the roads and how to conserve the water sources. The concerned authority has hired dozers and the drivers are cutting down the hills as please to construct the roads. But no one is monitoring and inspecting the sites.

In recent times, the chiefs of local government are competing with each other to show the development works. They are planning to construct the roads as much as they can, targeting the upcoming elections. As we observed the situation on the ground, it could easily guess that either the leaders are not concerned about the environment or they are ignoring it. In many places, roads are being constructed by destroying the water sources.

Many places have become prone to landslides due to haphazard use of dozers for road construction. Many houses and settlements are at high risk of landslides. But no one has paid any attention to protect those settlements. This is not the problem of one particular place but the entire country. However, the concerned agency has not paid serious attention to manage this problem. As most of these village roads are constructed randomly by the local communities, they do not follow the necessary technical standard or the measures to minimize the environmental risk. As a result, the incidents of landslides and other environmental impacts have been increasing.

Another major problem is factories and the smoke emitted from those factories. Everywhere, there is smoke of brick kilns and factories. It seems like this poisonous smoke has not affected anyone. Let me talk about another context. It was 11 o’clock in the morning when we reached Ratmate of Nuwakot. Large clouds of black smoke along with thick fog has covered the whole village. It was not the normal fog that people see during the winter. Later, we came to know that there were at least three factories in that area. The poisonous smoke emitted from those factories for almost 24 hours has been adversely affecting the environment. This has been seriously affecting the people’s health especially the children and elderly.

But none of the concerned agency has taken any initiative to relocate those factories from the settlements. Some say that their demands have not been addressed yet and some factories have been providing drinking water and other facilities to some locals. That is why, they do not speak much about these issues.

The Chief District Officer doesn’t have a clear answer regarding the issue. He said that the factories were being operated without following the standard. He further said that they will coordinate with the government to remove those factories.

River is another sector which has been facing a massive pollution. The rivers of Kathmandu have been facing the problem of pollution in such a way that it is quiet impossible to preserve those rivers. It is certain that the rivers outside the Kathmandu Valley will also face a similar problem. Settlements on the river banks are expanding gradually. As there are only few houses on the river banks, the effects have not been seen in the river even though people mix the drainage directly into the river. But when the number of settlements increases, the situation of these rivers will be like that of the rivers in Kathmandu. For instance, the settlements in Devghat have been increasing gradually in the recent time due to the facilities and various other reasons. Though the settlements have been increasing, the concerned authority has not paid attention to manage the garbage. The drainage and waste have been mixed directly to Tadi and Trishuli Rivers.

The local government has not been paying attention to develop the drainage system. It has also been found that the wastes produced in homes, hotels and restaurants have also been dumped into the rivers.

Moreover, the practice of fishing by using destructive methods has also been increasing, affecting the aquatic animals and surrounding nature. The extraction of riverbed materials from the rivers is also decreasing slowly in comparison to the past. People have completely stopped using excavator to extract sand from some rivers.

However, the local government has not made any policy to stop the people from extracting riverbed materials from the rivers in a sustainable way. According to a recent report prepared by World Bank, the natural habitats of fish and aquatic animals have been damaged due to the environmental effect. Likewise, the people of those communities, who earn their living by fishing, have also been affected.

Sustainable action plan has not been made so far due to lack of coordination among the government of all the three levels and clear jurisdiction. Hydropower projects are being constructed in many places of Nuwakot and Rasuwa in the recent time. But none of the agency has paid attention about how much water should be released while constructing dam of those projects. Another important place is Langtang National Park in Rasuwa district. The construction of roads is moving ahead at a rapid pace to increase connectivity with China.

People have also been saying that the train will also come from this place. The concerned authority should think about wild animals and other aspects of environment while constructing the roads.

These were some of the common sights we saw while travelling to Rasuwagadhi from Kathmandu via Nuwakot. One can easily assume that the situation across the country is same. Our president, prime minister and ministers always raise their voices in every international forum about the climate change. It is true that Nepal is bearing the brunt of the crisis created by the developed countries.

Developed countries are more responsible for the increase in global average temperature and for the destruction of environment.  And it is high time to take initiatives to minimize the effects. But the situation inside the country is more precarious than we thought. That is why, now we cannot just relax by pointing fingers to developed countries. Every sector of the environment has been facing negative impact due to the failure to give proper attention while building the infrastructure.

Kathmandu Valley has turned into a gas chamber. We always want to go outside the Kathmandu Valley for fresh air and good environment, but the environment outside the Valley is also deteriorating day by day. Development is obviously our necessity, but protecting the environment should be our top priority. We all should pay attention towards these things.

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