Kathmandu, November 2 Irked by illegal encroachment of Khula Manch, Kathmandu locals and activists are all set to launch ‘Occupy Tundikhel’ campaign. The campaign is being launched in a bid to exert pressure on the government to vacate Khula Manch, which is a part of Tundikhel. The open space located in the eastern side of the ancient settlements of Kathmandu such as Basantapur and Ason areas have been completely occupied for various reasons, especially, after the 2015 earthquakes. The open space at the heart of the city, which had provided refuge to thousands of people during the 2015 earthquakes, is now almost occupied. Almost half of the Khula Manch area has been occupied by construction materials used for construction of Darahara and Durbar High School. The area has been covered by tarpaulin on all sides and a ‘no trespassing’ sign is hung at the eastern gate. A couple of excavators can also be seen at Khula Manch. The other half of Khula Manch area was converted into a bus park, after the government, in March 2015, handed over a contract to build a view tower at the Old Bus Park. Construction of the view tower was expected to be over within five years, but considering the snail-paced construction work, it is very likely to take a few more years. Moreover, many illegal structures have been built at Khula Manch near the bus park area for commercial purpose with tacit support from Kathmandu Metropolitan City. Although the government had removed the illegal makeshift tents set up at Khula Manch in April, new stalls have already been set up and rented out to private vendors. Irate public of the area have thus decided to launch the campaign to make the government realise the importance of open space. According to activists, the government must vacate Khula Manch. Biraj Shrestha, coordinator of the campaign said that Khula Manch had cultural, political, and environmental significance. “The leaders must not forget that major political changes in the country were brought about from the Khula Manch. We cannot allow the government to occupy the open space with construction works. It must be vacated at the earliest and be opened to the public,” Shrestha said. Shrestha further informed that they had decided to organise a mass rally around Tundikhel area and surround Khula Manch with a human chain on November 9. Activist Ganapati Lal Shrestha said that illegal encroachment of the area had been a big hindrance to celebration of jatras and festivals.