Before I leave Kathmandu!
It has been some time since I had breathing problems recently, but common! This is Kathmandu, who doesn't have breathing problem here. Not even prime minister is spared. But the chest pain and breathing has been noticeable troubling recently. And that with the recent article and reports about how Kathmandu is breaking its records on air pollution makes me wonder how much we have accepted this and have become accustomed to the fetal dust all around us all the time. So much so; that I needed international reports and results of pollution monitoring devices to see the dust around me. I have a active life style, cycling around to fight pollution and health hazards it causes and could be for the same reason i am more exposed to the dangers of this then others. But which city isn't. In fact every city by its definition and its nature is prone to pollution. The more the city grows, the more it brings in pollution. And almost every city here appears to be directed towards the fate of Kathmandu. And i wonder how long it would take for this city to turn back into a livable city, especially when it is not even inclined to getting livable yet. Asking myself to find out the main cause of the scenario made me realize that; well I was the Pollutant. People like me who come to Kathmandu is ever increasing every year. Before I started asking myself, what made me come to Kathmandu and what really makes people come here, I had realized i need to leave Kathmandu as soon as possible just to save myself first.
|Kathmandu beyond hills chocked in dust and pollution, seen from hill of Sanga|
But then, is there any city that is better than Kathmandu, may be rest of Nepal. I thought which would top the list on livability, if really searched for.
The neighborhood close to were I live topped to my list of options. Bhaktapur so close to were the world is socked in dust and people living in rush-hours, has preserved itself like hundred years back. So, this should be the place , my first leap before I go back home to Dharan.
When talking about livable and people friendly towns, where children can freely move around safe, I always saw some European cities, some with car free concepts but Bhaktapur never came to my mind. But Bhaktapur can be an exemplary city not just for other cities of Nepal but entire Asia on being sustainable and people friendly. Infact it has already been listed on worlds carefree cities by some websites. With traditional houses and list extravagant sustainable lifestyle, it protected itself from the unmonitored influences that caught Kathmandu and did not spare Patan either. In fact ,we should do a comparative livability survey of all the toles of Kathmandu and cities from Mahendranagar to Pashupatinagar in the east and extensively promote to such that it effects the perspective of how a shelter is chosen and consider pollution and liveability.
But when we talk about livability of Bhaktapur, what might come to our mind would be the superhighway built in between the heart of the city, that has already killed lives of innocent people who never wanted those highways to be build in their neighborhood in the first place. Those superhighways should not have bothered the city and passed the other way, not destroying the market, its economic, and the community itself that leaved before. Did the community wanted the highway? And is it even important to ask whether the community wanted it or not? Was there any survey done by the government authority for community’s view and suggestion before making such impactful decision or was it a decision made just by a closed table talk. And what about the impacts of air pollution caused by the poorly managed road construction that had it’s victims the children and infants of the community again. The infants and small children who were forced to grow up and breath in such a harse polluted environment will have its call to the youth group in the future when they grow up, if not killed by the fatal accidents the highway offered, that took lives of many old and young. Does the government realize it’s responsibility to consider compensation to these patients and victims their negligence today will cause in the future.
Kathmandu will turn a super highway junction soon, but how many people have they consulted before taking those decisions and how many studies and research have they conducted? Does the state think it’s not others business and can’t have their say on it? Are the people in these community willing to bring it in or are they being forced to. A survey should be conducted if not by the government then by the civil society, to know what they have to say about it. Could be that these highways and plans of outer ring roads are being forced upon in welfare of traders with 18 wheels and 4WDs that don’t see the present roads suitable for them. Environmental NGO, INGO, and human rights organizations has their vital role to play right there, but sadly most of the decision makers of such community ride on private 4WDs that are starving for their share on the roads of Kathmandu.
If these highways are being built anyway, will air pollution after and while construction be checked? Will they compensate to the health loss of community living around it. Will there be measure to make sure no one dies of accident or will the government again wait for people to die and the rest learn their lessons from it.
Kathmandu will turn unlivable even more than it already is soon and never be as livable as it was in 2020BS. It won’t be hard to guess how tourists who come to escape their life would assume to Kathmandu loosing its essence. But with such least farsighted decision, if Kathmandu turns out unlivable, slowly all so called dwellers of Kathmandu might run back home like me, but what would those people do whose hometown is Kathmandu. These people should be more concerned about their village then rest of us for whom this city is just a work space, or a junction point to pass by.
Even after all these conditions we face every day, Kathmandu is yet claimed to be the best city in Nepal and that belief is what brings everyone here, the city of dreams. With high hopes when people come from around Nepal come to Kathmandu, they meet with tragedy; hopes crushed, they fly abroad losing hope on the entire nation. Mostly education and media has their roles to play in creating this view among us. It is not hard to wander why all the national media is situated in Kathmandu and how what mostly happens in Kathmandu is portrayed as what is happening in Nepal. Kathmandu as a capital city, marked as the city of dreams and how it turns to a city of broken dreams once arrived has a big role in the massive brain drain we suffer today.
How come the government managed 10 lanes road plans, and planning outer ring-roads which is assumed to be required in future, but don’t talk about plans for a suspension brides and jeep tracks in the rural area where people are dying in lack of it.
Lack of infrastructures forces us all to Kathmandu. Rather than planning for more people join in, it should have planned to build facilities in place, the lack of which brought us to Kathmandu in the first place. But the government is sure of not building up university and hospitals where required and is expecting them to migrate to Kathmandu for more years to come. Still, these politicians of the poor and marginalized will talk for their rights in their voting calls this time as well.
If environment organizations and environment activities really know the consequence of breathing-in polluted air, how come every one of them has to be in the core of the city. After Kathmandu being on the top list of the most polluted cities of Asia, to save their staffs, these organizations should move out of the city as well.
Bhaktapur should be promoted and all cities learn from it. Environment organization should shift there just to appreciate and to study who it works and what can be implied. Villagers of Kathmandu who are losing their precious and limited resources to this mob, the bureaucrats and politicians will be the last people standing with nowhere else to go if long predicted disaster strikes some day. The bureaucrats should also leave the city, sift the capital timely to make sure decentralization happens and every city gets to share the facility and infrastructure development equally.
My best wishes to people who will be migrating to Kathmandu with hopes and dreams and my sincere concern to the villagers of Kathmandu. I wish they check things before they lose it all forever.
As Dr Samlee Plianbangchang, South-East Asia Regional Director of World Health Organization mentioned in his message on this years world heath day that health is not just the responsibility of the health sector and requires tangible and sustainable actions from beyond the sector. Hope we realize health as an issue beyond individual level and refer to the health of the cities, and communities while we plan for a better new Nepal.
Kathmandu Cycle City 2020