Garbage and politics : Where is the difference?

Kathmandu is stinking these days. Of course, it has not happened for the first time. But those who have come to Kathmandu for the first time are naturally surprised at the sight of heaps of garbage on the main roads of the Metropolitan City. Last week, more than two dozen participants from South Asian Association for Regional Corporation (SAARC) countries were here to attend a workshop on inclusive electoral system organised by the South Asians for Human rights (SAHR).

In the course of their travel in a bus to attend a meet, surprised at the sight of the heaps of garbage, two participants from Bangladesh and Sri Lanka asked a Nepali participant as to why these heaps were lying unattended — ever since they came to Kathmandu two days ahead.

The reply of the Nepali participant was really interesting as he told them that garbage problem was a matter of politics in Kathmandu.

The municipal corporation comes under the jurisdiction of the ministry of local development. After people’s movement, the first elected government formed in 1991 was one-party majority government. But unfortunately, it could last for only three years. After the mid-term polls, a minority government was formed which survived for nine months. Then started the era of unholy coalitions which continued for three-and-a-half years that saw the formation of five successive governments. During this period, the concerned ministry had five different ministers. It has always been the job of other government partners to put the minister concerned in trouble. So far, temporary arrangements have been made even as garbage was made the bedrock of opposition politics. Hence, from time to time, transportation of garbage from Kathmandu to dumping sites gets obstructed.

Recently, the cadres of Young Communist League (YCL) affiliated with the Maoists had taken up the job of keeping the metropolis neat and clean to brush up their tarnished image as extorters and abductors but, for reasons unknown, they soon gave up the noble job.

Like politicians in Nepal, the residents of the Kathmandu metropolis suffer from two common but serious ills: lack of sensitivity to the problem and dependence on ‘others’ for solving any serious problem that might arise in the course of time. And we never bother to introspect that it is our duty to reduce the quantity of garbage we are producing. We never think of disposing of some of the garbage ourselves. We take it as the sole duty of the municipality to keep the metropolis clean.

Definitely, we can solve this problem if we want. For instance, if we decide not to use plastic bags, the problem will be considerably minimised. Hence the government should ban the use of plastic bags immediately. If every household has some space (which is hardly the case) for disposal

of garbage by turning it into compost, there will be very little left for the municipality to manage. Alarmingly, the house owners try to use every inch of their land

to construct buildings and what little is left is plastered to keep the premises clean. Most seriously, they are exploiting the underground water to meet the needs of multi-storied building dwellers but never leave any space for discharge of rain-water into the ground — unmindful of its serious repercussions.

Similarly, our politics has become a problem like garbage, be it the peace process, or the Constituent Assembly (CA) election or the issues of Madhesi people. With regard to the peace process, it is found that no party is serious about it.

After signing of the Comprehensive Peace Accord, the Maoists became a partner in the political alliance making it an eight-party alliance, but in reality, they have never functioned cohesively as a unit. The Maoists have always behaved like a separate entity who only care for their own benefits. The government too went along without bothering to look after Maoist


Likewise, the conduct of CA election appears to be no party’s responsibility. Election for the Constituent Assembly is, in reality, an intermediate objective, whereas building a new Nepal the supreme national goal. Instead of listening to the advice of the experts offering several alternatives, our politicians, however, are wasting time on the proportionality of the two components under mixed system.

In a similar vein, the issue of the Madhesi people have never considered seriously. No doubt, criminal activities can be checked with the help of India, but the genuine political demands of the Madhesi people cannot be met by striking any negotiations with India. For this, Nepal Army and the Maoist People’s Army’s combined operation is also not required. What is required is our seriousness and determination to resolve the outstanding issues. Otherwise Nepali politics too will continue to stink like the roads of Kathmandu.

Prof Mishra is an ex-election commissioner