EDITORIAL: Stinking city

If bad condition of the access road is the only reason for not being able to collect garbage, it must be repaired at the earliest

The entire Kathmandu Valley has now become a dumping site as the Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC), Lalitpur Metropolitan City (LMC) and other municipalities have been unable to collect garbage produced in the urban centres. The garbage has been piled up in every nook and corner and strewn on the streets of the Valley resulting in risk of public health and environmental pollution. One can easily see rainwater being seeped in from the strewn garbage which will be detrimental to everyday life. Doctors have warned that garbage piling up in open spaces could trigger water-borne diseases. Chances of breaking out epidemic are 60 per cent high during rainy season if the refuse is not collected on time. They have advised residents to keep their surroundings neat and clean of the garbage and urged the people to keep the homegrown garbage within their households until the refuse-collectors manage to collect the garbage and dump it at Okharpauwa, the designated landfill site which has now reached its saturated level. Dr Sher Bahadur Pun, a senior virologist at the Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital, said the unmanaged waste could result in typhoid, diarrhoea and hepatitis A and E.

An estimated 300 metric tonnes of waste is produced from the Valley every day. However, the KMC has so far managed to collect only 50 per cent of it. It has not been able to collect all garbage and transport it to the dumping site due to the “sorry state of the access road” to Okharpauwa. It has been more than a week the garbage has been strewn on the streets and open spaces, causing much difficulty to the people, pedestrians and even vehicles. Hari Kunwar, head of the environment department at KMC, said they cannot blacktop the access road to the dumping site as it should be used dump the garbage later. The waste transfer station at Teku has also been filled with garbage. The Sisdol landfill site constructed some 12 years ago has also not been fully utilised. The government had also bought land at Banchare Danda for Rs 590 million some 10 years ago to develop it as a permanent landfill site. It has also not come into operation.

The Banchare Danda landfill site can come into operation only after 2.8-km road and three bridges. But the Local Development Ministry which bought the land has not taken initiatives to build it. It shows the ministry’s lacklustre approach. Until the Banchare Danda landfill site is brought into full operation, the KMC and the ministry could have upgraded – for example filling gravel and building drainage system – the access road before the onset of monsoon which starts in June and lasts till September. The KMC which is responsible for refuse-collection and its management is playing with the public health, sanitation and environment. If the bad condition of the access road is the only reason for not being able to collect garbage, it must be repaired at the earliest. What can people expect from the locally elected officials when they fail even to collect refuse and dump it properly? The much talked about the idea of making the Valley a smart, green and healthy city will go down to the drain if they cannot perform their basic duties of collecting the garbage on time.

Lesson for jaywalkers

Last year, the traffic police enforced a strict rule targeting jaywalkers. Those found crossing the roads haphazardly were caught and fined. Following criticism, the provision of a fine was dropped. Gradually, everybody forgot the rule. A year later, the Metropolitan Traffic Division (MTPD) has now said those found crossing the roads without following traffic rules would have to attend a two-hour class on road safety. The move is aimed at reducing road accidents.

Poor road safety indeed is a cause for concern. Controlling jaywalkers to reduce accidents hence cannot be said a bad move. But it is equally important to recognise the fact that we seriously lack pedestrian-friendly roads. Footpaths are not in good shape while zebra crossings are few and far between. Overhead bridges are often occupied by street vendors. Studies have shown that our Capital is not a walkable city. Imparting lessons to pedestrians on road safety is good, but their freedom to walk must be ensured first by developing infrastructure that suits those who walk on the city roads. Authorities will do well if they walk the talk of ensuring road safety without inconveniencing the pedestrians.