Bleak houses

The High-power Committee for the Integrated Development of Bagmati Civilisation (HCIDBC) has begun dismantling the illegal constructions along the Bagmati river. The houses built by encroaching the river will be taken down and cultivated areas cleared. The committee has also been tasked to compensate those displaced by HCIDBC initiative (though compensating the “victims” for cleaning up illegally-occupied public space is a tad hard to stomach). Of the 27-km stretch of Bagmati river the committee is working on, the Tilganga-Manohara section has the highest reported cases of encroachment.

The riverbanks are public property and any unlawful use is subject to punishment. But weak legal mechanism and an equally enfeebled enforcement apparatus has given unscrupulous opportunists a free hand to appropriate public land for private purposes. Added houses and increased number of riverside residents, in turn, have led to a dramatic increase in river pollution with household trash handily tossed and sewage readily emptied into the holy waterway. What will happen to the cleared areas? Four-lane, blacktopped roads and green parks, if government authorities are to be believed. The upkeep project could be a huge step towards achieving the vision of a clean, green and healthy Kathmandu — a slogan given a lie by the sludge-steeped Bagmati winding its way through the rubbish-riddled capital.