EDITORIAL: What happened

If the Madhesi leaders continue with their present ways, future peace and progress of the province No. 2 would be in great peril as nobody would come there to develop it

Birgunj used to be widely regarded as the gateway to Kathmandu which saw a lot of business. But the protracted five months long protests by the Madesh-based agitating political parties, including their obstruction of the entry of Nepali imports through Birgunj-Raxaul border point to facilitate the blockade, have adversely affected most of the business activities in the city and its vicinity. Imports and exports from Birgunj have already come to a grinding halt. Trade through the Birgunj route accounted for about 61 per cent   of the entire country. Now, unless things improve in the near future, Birgunj could very well become a ‘dead city’. While other border points are now peaceful, Birgunj, regarded as the most important business hub in the country with a thriving economy, is almost deserted. Furthermore, cost of transportation from Kolkota to Birgunj is the least as compared to other border points which is one of the reasons for Birgunj being a vibrant, business hub bustling with activity.

Prolonged closure of businesses has compelled the entrepreneurs to shift to other places which many of them have already done. According to the records available, there were around 1,000 business enterprises in Birgunj involved in the retail trade and about 500 were involved in wholesale trading business prior to the blockade and agitation. Over 500 of the businesses have already pulled out. The once thriving business in Birgunj is no longer to be seen. As a result, the country has been losing billions of rupees in revenue at a time the country’s economy is virtually in doldrums. Birgunj is very convenient to set up businesses because of its location. Trading business saw much activity along the Bara-Parsa corridor considered ideal to set up factories.

It is tragic that because of the blockade thousands of people no longer are employed and the hardest hit are the daily wage earners. It is estimated that since August as many as 200,000 workers have been laid off from the factories that used to operate in this corridor to minimize the cost of their operations, while others are no longer in operation costing the economy dear. Some of the workers were put on forced leave after receiving the go ahead from the District Labour Office, but according to the legal provisions only 15 days of such leave can be given in a year.   The future looks bleak for Birgunj if the blockade and the political agitation continue, and it would be difficult to bring back the industrialists and entrepreneurs once they relocate to the nearest convenient locations like Bhairahawa, Hetauda and Narayangarh. The Madhes-based parties and others who have organized protests or abetted these have already caused much damage to Birgunj and other places in the Terai which are seen as unrest-prone. Investors do not want to invest in areas where political agitation, criminal activities prevail and where there is no guarantee of the security of their investment. They will naturally relocate or invest in peaceful places where their investment is secure. If the Madhesi leaders continue with their present ways, the future peace and progress of the province No. 2 would be in great peril as nobody would come there to develop it.

Ambitious plan

The entire Kathmandu Valley will be developed as a metro city within years to come if everything goes according to plan. There are 22 municipalities, including the Kathmandu Metropolitan City, Lalitpur Sub-Metropolis and 20 other municipalities announced recently. The KMC will bear 35 percent, Lalitpur Sub-Mtro will bear 18 percent, Bhaktapur five percent and Kirtipur and Thimi municipalities will bear four percent each for the integrated development of the Valley inhabited by over three million people. Newly-announced 17 municipalities will bear around two percent of the cost.

Effective management of waste and sewerage, greenery promotion, pollution control, promotion of electric vehicles and mass transportation, e-governance, conservation of cultural and heritage sites and promotion of tourism are some of the integrated schemes on the cards. A Kathmandu Valley Development Authority comprising representatives from all municipalities will be formed to oversee the most common tasks identified by the umbrella body. It is an ambitious plan but it needs good coordination, planning and proportional distribution of resources.