Govt fails to relocate squatters in Valley

Kathmandu, June 23

Although large swathes of land along the river banks in the Kathmandu Valley have been encroached upon by squatters for the last 43 years, the government has yet to manage them permanently.

In 2012, the government had attempted to clear all kinds of encroachment and illegal settlements on the river banks but squatters attacked government officials and refused to leave their illegally built houses. The government has made no attempts to relocate them since.

According to High Powered Committee for Integrated Development of the Bagmati Civilisation, squatters want to be settled on the same place instead of being moved to another location.

“The committee held a series of discussions with stakeholders but squatters are not ready to be relocated elsewhere,” said senior divisional engineer at the committee Prabhat Shrestha. “Even when a group of squatters seems ready, other groups come forward and refuse to be relocated. The matter remains unresolved as we have failed to persuade the squatters.”

The government had decided to temporarily relocate the squatters to Chovar before settling them permanently in Ichangunarayan. However, squatters of Thapathali tore the government document and attacked officials rejecting the government’s plan.

Four years since the incident, the Department of Urban Development and Building Construction has constructed three buildings for squatters. But the squatters are not ready to move permanently into the buildings.

“We cannot allow the government to treat us like animals. We know that the government is going to cram thousands of squatters in the buildings, which are too far away from the city,” Hukum Bahadur Lama, president of Nepal Landless Democratic Union Party told THT, “The government should relocate us to areas not too far away from where we are living.”

According to DUDBC, three buildings have already been constructed while construction of other three buildings for squatters are under way in Ichangunaran.

Basanta Kumar Rai, chief of Kathmandu Division Office of DUDBC, it would cost at least Rs 115 to construct the buildings. “We have prepared the procedure for managing the squatters and the process to relocate them will begin after procedure gets approved,” said Deputy Director General of DUDBC Rabi Shah.

Although the Nepal Landless Democratic Union Party claims that there are 29,000 squatters in the Kathmandu Valley, only 1,082 families had registered as squatters in 2012.

There are 73 squatter settlements in Kathmandu and three each in Lalitpur and Bhaktapur. However, squatters settled on the banks of the Bagmati River in Thapathali only 10 years ago.