KATHMANDU, July 01: Even as the Kathmandu valley road expansion drive resumes after a three-month hiatus with the demolition of illegally-built structures on Saturday along the Lainchaur-Golfutar stretch, the previously-widened road segments are in tatters.
The government has failed to reconstruct the widened roads, leaving over 40 km of widened roads completely in a mess. The widened roads appear ugly with dangling telephone cables, not-yet-relocated electricity poles and debris strewn by monsoon rains. Worse, the reconstruction work of widened roads will begin only after the end of monsoon, say concerned authorities.
“This is a tragedy,” says Dr Bhaikaji Tiwari, District Commissioner of Kathmandu Valley Town Development Authority (KVTDA), which replaced Kathmandu Valley Town Development Committee (KVTDC) only three months ago. “Other government bodies, which are responsible for reconstructing the widened roads, have failed to catch up with our speed at which we are now removing illegally-constructed structures.”
According to Dr Tiwari, before being replaced by KVTDA, KVTDC had widened 41 km of road segments at different places. However, not a single stretch of road has been reconstructed so far. The Kathmandu Metropolitan Traffic Police Division (KMTPD) has cleared the debris in some parts of the widened roads and the Road Division Office of Kathmandu has blacktopped some widened road parts. But, that is all. “We are now gravelling some five road segments,” says Gopal Bahadur Khadka, Road Division Chief of Kathmandu. “We want to ensure that people do not have to walk the muddy streets in monsoon rains." However, according to Budhathoki, the division office will begin blacktopping the expanded roads only after monsoon by September.
Shyam Kharel, Chief of Kathmandu Valley Road Expansion Project (KVREP), which has been tasked with reconstructing some of the major road segments including the Maitighar-Tinkune stretch, says, “We planned to start our work before the monsoon. But, we could not start our work due to bandas and fuel shortage in May.”
On Saturday, KVTDA demolished illegally-constructed structures along a 4.9 km stretch linking Lainchaur to Golfutar. “In the first phase, we demolished only compound walls, huts and other temporary physical structures,” DIG Ganesh Raj Rai, chief of KMTPD, told media persons. "We have not touched any house as of now."
According to Dr Tiwari, the Lainchaur-Golfutar road stretch, which is just 11.5-13.5 meters wide now, will be expanded nine meters on either side. “As per the Kathmandu Valley Road Standards-2033 BS, this road segment should be expanded by 11 meters on either side,” says Dr Tiwari. “But, if we follow the 2033 standards, the number of houses to be demolished during the expansion drive will be very high. Therefore, we decided to expand this road only by nine meters from the centre.”
The locals from Lazimpat area had formed a joint struggle committee against the expansion drive. Mainly due to a stiff resistance by the committee, KVTDC had not dared removing illegally-built structures from along the Lainchaur-Golfutar stretch. However, with former Kathmandu mayor Keshav Sthapit assuming office of KVTDA chief, the expansion drive entered Lazimpat area, too.
"We were accused of hesitating to enter the Lazimpat area," says Dr Tiwari. "Our latest demolition work has sent a message that we are not scared of any one. Sooner or later, we will accomplish our work."
On Saturday, security personnel were mobilized to prevent the locals from disturbing the demolition work. However, not many people stood against the drive. Some locals protested but without great effect.