NEPALGUNJ, July 21: A group of locals from Charbahini Chwok of Nepalgunj city area arrived at the office of the municipality executive officer to request a fire brigade. There was no fire, but they wanted to wash the road with fire brigade water.
“The road is too dusty,” Krishna Prasad Subedi, representing local businessmen, told Executive OfficerLok Bahadur Sunar. Sunar couldn´t response with appropriate words.
However, his colleague Mohan Hamal came to his rescued and said, “The road can´t become clean without heavy rain.”
He elaborated, “The municipality can´t use the fire brigade to wash roads. It´s exclusively for fires. And if we concede your request, everyone else will demand the same thing tomorrow”
Both of them are right. The city dwellers are victims of dust, mud and filth littering the city. As citizens, they pay tax to the local government. So they went to request a cleanup. But the municipality is also right. According to its balance sheet the municipality has no money to spare.
According to Sunar, the municipality gets Rs. 60 million from the central government and Rs. 15 million from local resources. Out of this it spends Rs. 45 million for salaries and administrative costs. “We can´t carry out development work with a budget of Rs. 20 to 30 million,” he says. “Just to unclog the sewerage system would cost almost Rs. 1.5 million.”
Locals consider Sunar a comparatively better bureaucrat, with a zeal to do something. However, he looks helpless and unable to even comply with an Appellate Court order to build sewerage for the city. This is a tall order but the resources available are peanuts. “Everyone blames the municipality,” he says. “But no one is ready to help. I wanted to raise taxes, but businessmen are skeptical and ask what they´ll get from the municipality.”
Nepalgunj wears a rustic look. People from outside don´t want to visit here because of all that dirt. The main road appears big, but it´s congested due to encroachment by houses, shops, street vendors and heavy vehicles parked on both sides. They occupy more than half the road area.
The traffic is notorious. Vehicles honk all the time. Drivers are reckless. The dust is everywhere. When there´s rain the road looks like a paddy field.
In addition, stray cattle, mules and donkeys rule the roost. Cow owners leave the animals in the city area after milking. They remaim there all day and night eating vegetable leftovers and fruit rind. The mules and donkeys are used for moving goods. Once they finish working, they are left in Nepalgunj´s market area.
Police have started chasing away the stray cattle. After reading about the probelm in Nagarik, sister publication of this paper, they started a drive against street encroachment.
“This is only a first step,” Bikram Thapa, chief of Banke police, told Republica. “We´ve removed the cattle with help from the local administration. It´s now the turn of humans. They have to evacuate the place within 15 days. It´s a beautiful city, but looks dirty due to encroachment.”
The behavior of city dwellers is another thing that needs to change. They don´t collect the rubbish and deposit in appropriate places. Most of them dump it in the drains. “They want everything done by the municipality. The concept of public private partnership (PPP) is a super flop here,” Sunar says.
Nepalgunj doesn´t have any landfill site. It´s been trying to find one. After almost a decade it has enforced a transportation tax. The to-do list is long: buy new vehicles to move garbage, cleaning up the city, income generation, etc.. Sunar is not sure how far he can get.