Although the Supreme Court issued an interim order to suspend the demolition campaign launched by Kathmandu Valley Town Development Planning, it continues on the roadsides in many parts of the valley.
According to Kathmandu Valley Town Development Planning Office, demolition targeted houses built by encroaching sides. However, house owners reject the government claim saying that their houses were destroyed illegally.
Introduced 30 years ago, Kathmandu Valley Town Development Planning has set certain specifications for the construction of houses along the sub-roads, main roads, city roads and highways. However, the plan was grossly violated by house owners due to lack of strong inspections.
Kathmandu Valley Town Development Implementation Committee (KVTDIC) Chief Dr. Bhai Kaji Tiwari said, “Although I tried to initiate the process of widening the roads of the valley way back, but due to lack of support, I was not able to start it back then.”
Now, finally the government of Nepal is paying heed to the people’s need and has started the process of widening the roads.
The expansion of roads began to meet the standards set by Town Development Committee in which the width of roads has been fixed between 8 meters and 61 meters, depending on the grade that the road belongs to.
The road expansion process was initiated from Maitighar-Tinkune road, where the parking space of Toyota Company which was built on road was bulldozed along with the surrounding spaces, said an official involved in the expansion.
The encroachment of public land has a long history. “In the past, only people with power had the courage to encroach on the public land, but now this has been a trend and people have been trespassing on as much public land as possible,” said Tiwari.
The construction in the roadside public land is very tempting as very high revenue can be earned from the rent of the roadside shops, plus the astronomical price of roadside land makes it difficult not to encroach. So, when the high money is involved and when the lands of big hotels, shopping centers, and police headquarters and foreign embassies fall within the public spaces, expansion of road was not easy to kick start as the officials involved in the demolition process had to face pressure from various quarters by many influential people. “There were pressure at the beginning but once the prime minister publicly came into our support, there has been no pressure at all,” said Tiwari. “The process has also been easy unlike previous times, all the concerned authorities like road department, municipality, urban development and traffic police have helped us and worked in unison,” he added.
Common people have welcomed the road widening step. On the contrary, they have expressed serious doubts about the reconstruction of the road and fear that the government might not be able to build proper roads and pavements. And looking at the current uncertain politics, there might be a turnaround in the government anytime and the expansion process might be stalled for years, which could make roads even more miserable.
The budget to complete the process might also be an obstacle for the reconstruction after the expansion. "We have only NRs 50 million allocated in the current budget for regular expansion of roads in the Kathmandu valley. We asked for addition NRs 450 million to undertake black-topping of the expanded roads," Tulasi Prasad Sitaula, secretary at the MoPPW (Ministry of Physical Planning and Works), said.
Prime minister Dr. Baburam Bhattarai has himself given assurance regarding this matter. "We are going to not only expand the roads but also upgrade them to match with the standards required for the upcoming 18th SAARC summit in our country," he said.
Minister for Physical Planning and Works Hridayesh Tripathi also has similar opinions. “Widening of roads in the valley will continue as per the law. We have already started demolishing illegal structures and there is no shortage of funds to develop the roads,” said Tripathi.
The expansion of roads have been greeted and cheered from all the quarters. But, the people whose property are being brought down into pieces are complaining that they have not received enough time to dismantle their property on their own, especially during the initial phase of expansion.
Listening to people’s concerns Supreme Court has stayed the expansion process in some places, whereas on others it has given a green signal.
People who are facing the demolition are feeling aggrieved and have protested against the process. However, government is ready to compensate people if they have done everything legally. “If people have constructed legally or have constructed their property before the law came into action then the government will surely compensate them,” said Bhai kaji Tiwari
If enough budgets are provided and there are no other glitches and disturbances then the face of Kathmandu can be changed within two years, said Tiwari.
With this road expansion step, state has shown its unused power and has left a strong message that if the state wants, it can take action against the people who defy the law.