Now that the locals of Chabahil and Dholagiti have tasted success with their protests, the residents of other localities could also join the bandwagon
Procrastination is the second nature to projects in Nepal, be it the construction of roads, hydropower projects, airports, hospitals, you name it. If the projects were delayed by a few months, that would have been excusable, but when they don’t even get started for years after the contracts are awarded, then something is definitely wrong with the way projects are handled in this country. The delay takes place largely because the concerned authorities are not accountable to anyone, and the beneficiaries, namely the people, are unassertive about their right to a development project. But it seems the people’s patience has run out, as is seen by a sudden spurt in protests by the locals against the constant rescheduling of construction activity in their areas. On Sunday, tired of the constant dust kicked up by the vehicles moving on the gravelled road that runs through Dholagiti, Sunakothi and Chapagaun in Lalitpur, to the south of Kathmandu, the locals finally decided enough is enough and resorted to halting vehicular movement on the six-kilometre road stretch. They have made it clear that the blockade will not be lifted unless the authorities expedite the construction of the road, which is part of the Kanti Highway, the shortest route that links the capital with Hetauda in the Tarai. The locals seem to have adopted the tactic, incited by the accomplishment, only a few days earlier, of the people residing along the dusty Chabahil-Sankhu road in compelling the contractor to blacktop the road.
Delay in project implementation not only invites inconveniences and health hazards to the people, it also involves cost overruns, which a cash-strapped country like ours can ill-afford. Things would have moved much faster in this country if the concerned authorities acted promptly to sort out the problems that surface in the execution of a project, big or small. The 11-km Ring Road expansion project from Koteswor to Kalanki serves as a good example of how indifference on the part of our authorities and concerned departments dragged it over six years, something that would have taken less than six months in China to build. For instance, it took the Nepal Electricity Authority more than a year just to relocate the electricity poles, before the Chinese technicians could start work.
One may question if the tactic used by the locals at Chapagaun – or Chabahil for that matter – is right. The mob culture is wrong, no doubt, but the people definitely had no option other than to use unruly methods to bear pressure on the authorities to speed up the work that has been stalled for more than two years. One cannot expect the people to be eating dust day and night, with the authorities absolutely indifferent to the plight of the locals. Now that the locals of Chabahil and Dholagiti have tasted success with their protests, it is likely that the residents of other localities – not necessarily limited to the Kathmandu Valley – will also join the bandwagon to put pressure on the authorities to expedite projects. Will this instill responsibility and accountability in our authorities and bring about a new working culture in the country?
The government agencies must raise a awareness campaign nationwide about retinoblastoma, which is a life-threatening eye cancer commonly seen in children and infants. Eye surgeon Dr Sanduk Ruit, one of the founders of Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology, said due to lack of awareness about the disease, many children are losing their eyesight and, in some cases, even facing death. Every year, more than 5,000 new cases of retinoblastoma are diagnosed worldwide, and one among 20,000 children is diagnosed with this kind of tumour worldwide.
Children in the rural areas of the country suffer the most from this disease due to lack of knowledge. It is not known how many children in the country suffer from this disease, which can be treated if detected at its early stage. It may occur in one or both the eyes. It begins in the retina, the layer of nerve cells lining the black of the eye. It happens when nerve cells in the retina change. However, the disease does not show any symptoms in the initial stage. Marking World Retinoblastoma Awareness Week beginning from May 13, experts have said pregnant and new mothers must be made aware about the life-threatening disease.
A version of this article appears in print on May 15, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.