EDITORIAL: Strengthen local level

To create a vast infrastructure for the local levels would be a huge task both in terms of budget and work

It has been almost two decades since the last local elections were held. Holding the local level elections on May 14 is going to be a tall order unless necessary logistics, including human resources, are in place.

Elections are to be held at 744 local levels which would be an arduous task also because of the time constraint. A cabinet meeting had announced a new local structure that would be in keeping with the new Constitution of Nepal. As per its decision, these would consist of four metropolitan cities, 13 sub-metropolitan cities, 246 municipalities and 481 rural municipalities.

The Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development is gearing up to depute the required executives to provide services in a matter of two or three days.

The Election Commission has asked the ministry to appoint them by March 16. A joint secretary would head the team in each metropolitan city, an undersecretary at each sub-metropolitan city and municipality and a section officer would be posted at each rural municipality.

All the required logistics should be in place to hold the polls in a free and fair manner which would not be easy especially considering the ad hoc preparations being made. The holding of the local level elections would also involve a lot of expenses and a budget should be provided in order to meet them.

For instance, accommodation would be required for the polling staff and security personnel. To create a vast infrastructure for the local levels, which are more powerful than the earlier local bodies and have many more responsibilities to discharge regularly, would be a huge task both in terms of budget and work.

For example, sufficient land needs to be acquired to construct the new premises and buildings for the local levels to house the local executive, legislature and judiciary. The need of trained manpower to conduct the polls and to provide services at the local level is also crucial.

Furthermore, the necessity for adequate security to hold them is a must if people are to vote without fear and hindrance.

The local levels have been entrusted with the task for the management of many local services, collections of local statistics and records. As per the constitution, the local levels would also see to it that basic and secondary education, basic health and sanitation are being provided apart from the protection of the environment and biodiversity.

The local level would help immensely in the distribution of house and land ownership certificates and also basic needs such as water supply. The local levels could play pivotal roles in the development of small hydropower projects, and alternative energy such as wind and solar power.

The lack of local levels was felt particularly after the devastating earthquake in 2015. Had there been local bodies the earthquake victims would have been provided with relief assistance promptly and the reconstruction drive could have been expedited.

The local level also facilitates the levying of local taxes such as wealth tax, house rent tax, motor vehicle tax and other service charges through the elected representatives who will be able to take political decisions at the local level.

Control dust

The parliamentary Environment Protection Committee has instructed the Melamchi Water Supply Project to spray water over busy sections of roads to reduce the cloud of dust that floats all around in the Kathmandu Valley because of the digging-up operations that have been going on for laying pipe.

The digging up of the capital’s roads started in the valley over a couple of years – for road expansion as well as for Melamchi water works. At one time it has continued on several road stretches. These road works have been necessary.

But what has been the main culprit is the failure to fill up the dug-up sections in a reasonable period of time and, worse, blacktopping them has not been done in many areas even in two years.

The House panel’s instruction is well intended but very belated but something is better than nothing. Too little water keeps the roads dusty but too much water makes them muddy, which will be another problem. Of late, one positive aspect has been to do the pipe work during night when traffic is very thin.

Such measures will help reduce the problem of dust somewhat temporarily but the main thing is to finish the whole work speedily.