Drive to remove dangling wires hits Thamel businesses

Kathmandu, December 18

Thamel is getting rid of chunks of wires and cables dangling from utility poles ahead of the much-touted Visit Nepal 2020, but this initiative to beautify Nepal’s most famous backpackers hub has caused inconvenience to businesses, as they have lost access to landline telephone and internet services, which are a must to communicate and accept digital payments.

The Thamel Tourism Development Council (TTDC) launched a drive to remove all types of wires dangling from utility poles four days ago in a bid to make the tourist hub cleaner. This has left Thamel, which is home to around 6,000 businesses, without internet or landline telephone connection. It is not known how long it will take for these services to be restored.

“The initiative to beautify Thamel is noteworthy. But the wires should have been removed after providing alternative access to phone and internet service,” said Bidur Rajopadhaya, the operator of Deluxe Money Exchange at Thamel Chowk.

Businesses like Rajopadhaya’s entirely depend on landline phone service as they have to use point of sales terminals where debit and credit cards are swiped to settle payments. “I’m worried about losing business because Christmas is the time when business volume increases and I have no phone connection,” said Rajopadhaya.

Many shops in Thamel that accept debit and credit cards are also seeing a slump in business, as foreigners, who do not carry cash, are not buying anything. One such shop is owned by Sunil Thapa.

“There has been very little business transaction in my shop in the last four days because most of the foreigners do not carry cash these days,” said Thapa, who owns a handicraft shop.

Hotels are facing similar problems. They have not been able to take stock of online bookings and communicate with clients because of interruption in internet service. “Worse, our guests are complaining about not being able to communicate with their families and friends in their home countries,” said Raman Adhikari, operator of Hotel Summit.

The TTDC has acknowledged that their move has caused inconvenience to businesses. “But we had to do this as Thamel has become ugly because of tonnes of wires dangling from utility poles,” said TTDC President Prakash Narsingh Rana.

He added, “We launched this drive after holding discussions with local authorities, businesses, police, Nepal Telecommunications Authority and internet service providers. We also published a public notice in a newspaper on December 3 about this drive.”

The Internet Service Providers’ Association of Nepal has, however, said it was not formally informed about the campaign. “We would have made necessary arrangements if we were told beforehand,” said ISPAN President Bhoj Raj Bhat.

The haphazard removal of wires, according to Bhat, has inflicted losses to around 10 ISPs that provide internet service in Thamel area. “We will move the court for causing damage to our assets and demand compensation as well,” said Bhat.