KATHMANDU: Another Village Development Committe (VDC) set to register itself as a municipal area is Dhapasi-Basundhara area which consists of nine wards in six square kilometres. The total population there is 12,000 and the annual income of the VDC is Rs 6 to 6.5 million, which according to VDC secretary Rishiram Aryal will increase from this year as new tax collection processes will be launched to increase revenue and contribute to build well-facilitated public places, football grounds, parks, conference halls, party palaces and old age homes. Aryal said this could be possible by collecting tax on every ropani of land at the rate of Rs 400 each apart from house tax.
“Between 1970-80, urbanisation gained momentum and low-density urban expansion spread to outlying well-drained ‘Tars’ having easy road access,” said Aryal. Then, these new developments were occurring beyond Bishnumati River in the west and Dhobi Khola in the east. Ring Road, built in the mid-70s, gave further impetus to urban expansion as more areas were made accessible. In such conditions, huge parcels of land lay under-used within the existing Ring Road while on the other ribbon development was taking place in rural areas. “Rural areas of Kathmandu have experienced unprecedented land subdivision and building construction over the last six years,” said Aryal adding that after the construction of Ring Road some part of Dhapasi was included in the VDC and the rest in municipal area. Yet, both are regarded Basundhara.
Despite being a VDC, Dhapasi has distinguished itself from many other VDCs of the country. It has set an example of more development and management than municipal areas, if local resources are mobilized properly. Land subdivision led people to prefer to stay on fringe areas of cities and in villages who could not afford land in municipal areas. Difficulties in cultivation of land due to shortage of manpower and a huge demand for housing plots motivated rural landowners to sell agricultural land at high prices.
“Besides getting cheaper housing plots, new migrants settle in rural areas as there is no need to get a building permit from the local authorities,” said Aryal. Many massive structures including apartments built by Park View Horizon are in Dhapasi. Deurali Pharmaceuticals Company, GEMs Plasticware Company and one of the largest higher secondary schools of that area — Tilingtar Higher Secondary school as well as Hotel Shahanshah are located in this VDC. Polyclinics, schools, water collected by deep boring methods, drainage and roadway facilities are available.
According to Aryal, roadways in Basundhara area were built by the VDC itself by allocating funds from the local inhabitants. Religious sites at Dhapasi are of equal importance from religious as well as internal tourism point of view. The famous Basundhara Bihar, Kalki temple, Krishna temple and Shiv temple are some of the remarkable landmarks of this area. In 2002, the government approved a long-term development concept for Kathmandu Valley prepared by Kathmandu Valley Town Development Committe (KVDTC). “This legislation was widely acclaimed, but it has not yet been enacted by the parliament because of political instability,” said KVTDC legal adviser Dan Bahadur Thapa.
“Development activities are limited to housing areas and local people will have to face such as water scarcity problems in the near future due to deep-boring activities of these commercial builders,” said Aryal. “It cannot be denied that companies and hotels increase the employment opportunities in particular places, but the environmental effect is certain to be adverse.”
The government is unable to acquire land because of financial constraints. Private developers face difficulties in assembling land parcels due to land ceiling provisions laid down by the Land Reform Act of 1964.
Developers also face difficulties in procuring land parcels from speculative landowners who either demand exorbitant prices or simply refuse to sell the land. “There is no legal tool to acquire isolated land parcels from uncompromising landowners,” said Thapa.
“Political power structure in the valley is still dominated by village development committees (VDCs) and members of parliament raise rural development issues during their poll campaigns,” said local inhabitant Narayan Khadka, adding that members of Parliament, irrespective of their political affiliation, get elected on the basis of their influence in rural areas.
In 1995, another study carried out by the government with the help of IUCN examined the possibilities of limiting the growth of Kathmandu and arresting the flow of population coming to Kathmandu through secondary towns adjoining Kathmandu valley.
Aryal said that the study has clearly shown that the planning intervention within Kathmandu valley would not be sufficient unless the issue of secondary towns was addressed.