EDITORIAL: Out of order

If our public body cannot properly maintain solar streetlamps, it will be far better to transfer this responsibility to the private sector. But streetlights must always burn to light the darkness

The Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) has started installing more solar-powered streetlights in the capital city.

This will add to the number of solar streetlamps covering more stretches of its streets, a process which was begun during the preparations for the latest SAARC summit held in Kathmandu some two years ago.

Indeed, solar lights are regarded beneficial from more than one angle -- in the long term solar-power lighting is cheaper, and sunlight, the source of powering the solar battery, is abundant in the country and comes free. Solar energy is fully dependable and it does not contribute to pollution.

It can help meet a significant portion of power needs of the country which, despite its huge hydropower potential, faces a huge gap between the supply of power and the demand for it, leading to hours of load-shedding throughout the year.

In this context, the municipalities have a policy of gradually increasing the share of solar energy to light the streets. The new contract for installing solar streetlights in Kathmandu has been awarded to a private firm following the principle of public-private partnership.

The KMC aims to install solar streetlights in the streets under its jurisdiction in one and a half years. That is fine. The first phase of the present work will cover the stretches of road in Anamnagar, from Kalanki to Maitighar, Keshar Mahal intersection to Thamel, Chhetrapati to Sorhakhutte, and Balaju to Naya Bus Park.

And it will mean erecting 400 poles. The second phase will cover more areas with the installation of 300 streetlamps, and the third phase will light more stretches of streets with the installation of 385 streetlamps.

The solar streetlights will come under KMC’s ownership in a decade but until that period the installing company will pay an annual royalty of Rs. 8,700 to KMC. The company will also bear the costs of the installation. Altogether, 1,285 streetlights are to be installed.

What is important is that installation will have no meaning without regular repairs and maintenance. It will be money going down the drain. This applies to the solar streetlights installed during the SAARC summit.

Thick layers of dust have formed on the solar panels which need to be cleaned regularly for them to catch sunlight and most of the lights are not working now. But many millions of rupees were spent on them which came from donors.

The main point is that just the construction of any infrastructure is not enough, taking full advantage of it through its proper repairs and proper maintenance is equally important. If we cannot do both well, it is better not to undertake such work or implement such an idea in the first place.

However, recently the ministry concerned is reported to have prepared technical specifications about solar lighting and KMC has also moved forward a solar project under public-private partnership.

If our public body cannot properly maintain solar streetlamps, it will be far better to transfer this responsibility to the private sector. But streetlights must always burn to light the darkness.

Kids at risk

Brick kilns on an average build at least 20 ditches which are as deep as 20 meters to store water. As these are usually not fenced in a proper manner many children drown in these water filled pits.

The recent such case took place about three weeks ago when an infant aged around 18-months drowned in one such pit. Data from police show that a total of 17 children have drowned in such ditches build by the brick kiln industries in Bhaktapur alone in the past three years.

In the Bikram year 2070 six children had drowned, five in 2071 and six in 2072. Despite knowing the hazards such pits pose the practice of digging ditches without proper precautions has taken a high toll of children.

It is the responsibility of the brick factory owners to ensure that such tragedy do not occur and that their premises are safe. Legal action cannot be taken as these are not murder cases.

Police cases have not been filed so far for such cases. The kin of the deceased are sometimes given compensation, but these are not decent.

These cases are often settled between the family of the victims and brick kiln owners.