Hills are bleeding

Published On: June 13, 2023 09:00 PM NPT By: Bimal Rawal

Take a trip out of Kathmandu – anywhere. The hills are scarred, and it seems beyond repair. One should not be surprised to come across massive hills, even precarious and unsteady hillocks by the side of the road, being bulldozed and flattened to make way for plotting, village roads, eateries, and businesses. There is no method in this madness, merely greed. Generations will have to pay for the risks generated by this greed.

These are not merely visual pollution but an environmental harakiri. In many such cases one can find a village perched at the top of the hill that they have just carved out!!! How is this possible? Just because you own the land does not mean that you can do as you chose without any consideration of the impact on others including the fragile environment. Where are our policies and guidelines?

Driving on the highway one finds a diversion to the villages every hundred meters? Is this not dangerous? Village roads need to be scenic, connecting villages, providing services, perhaps parallel to the highways with a few strategically located entry and exit points but it seems that anyone with adjacent land to the highway can just get a bulldozer and carve the hill to make a road, without any permission, assessment, analysis or consequences. What do the highway rules say, if we have any? It is also believed that most of the rural roads are built based on the dictates of the local political leaders and not on any scientific, geological or social assessment.

Spend a night in any number of resorts/cottages dotting our hills and you will be numbed by the consistent drumming of some heavy machinery with an occasional loud thud of a tree being felled and then the crushing of stones. A road is being constructed!! Why and how both need investigation. None of the roads built have had any kind of a study – geological, civil, and technical – or Environmental Impact Assessment done. Nor are they part of any local development strategic road. Most of the villagers themselves do not know why the road is being built – they have had no say or knowledge about the decision. So much for participatory development!!!

It seems that the local government officials and the local land mafia operate hand in gloves and roads are being built to make connectivity to a land which they had purchased at throw-away prices and now with the road connectivity they are bound to make an immense profit. It seems that many urbanites are buying up land in the hills for the view, the clean air and a quieter place and ending up in the clutches of these middlemen. The original landowners are ending up as 2-ana squatters in the urban area, working as landless migrant laborers. 

Why is it that the municipalities and rural municipalities do not have a “road and transport” strategy that is developed in consultation with the locals? This would ensure that random adhoc road building would come to an end and that roads would be constructed to serve the villagers and not the land mafia – no wonder there is no strategy. Every road in the hills challenges civil engineering principles with zero consideration for environmental impact including rainwater management, drainage, erosion management or embankments. The roads are merely bulldozed into the hills and will get washed away as soon as the monsoons arrive creating immense damage to the environment and property. 


This is environmental terrorism, the impact of which will be faced by generations to come. Yet, with the judiciary in their pockets and bureaucrats as their henchmen, and a government system that works on “settings”, the leaders barely care about the loss of lives and property, sustainable development, ethical guidelines or conflict of interest – except quick money.


The unscrupulous officials and middlemen have only profits in mind. The visual, environmental and social consequences are inconsequential. Their goal is merely to bulldoze a road but who gives the permission? Is it not the government and its ministry of transport that needs to have the final say? Should it not be based on engineering, environmental, and social assessments? Or is it “do as you please” and as long as the officials get their commission?.

It seems that the local “land mafia” are drunk with the newfound influence that their ill-gotten gains has provided them. They cannot stop and as long as there is no system of checks and balances, transparency and accountability, they will continue with the same work unabated. The land prices are inflated beyond belief, quadrupled at times, yet the original landowner gets merely a pittance. We live in a country of unscrupulous middlemen and land mafia and as corruption always “trickles up” there is no way that this parallel system will ever be brought under control. There is no will. Everybody, the middlemen, the local government officials, the land bureau, the politicians are all part and parcel of the racket. 

Every year, we hear more news of devastating landslides, and one wonders how much of this is a natural phenomenon and how much a product of our own stupidity, greed, politics, mismanagement and/or blatant corruption? All over the country, the sand mafia and stone quarries have “legally and illegally” mined all our rivers without any consideration to the impact on the local flora or fauna causing huge damage to the fragile ecosystem while the stone mining and illegal logging have made the hills and plains bare. The introduction of heavy machinery in the hands of ignorant yet corrupt leaders has been the last straw in the degradation of our environment. Those who own these equipment are themselves the policy makers and local leaders. The haphazard plotting of land, illegal construction with barely any zoning guidelines and with the concept “road in each and every house” in a fragile ecological setting is merely due to the insatiable greed of our leaders.

While the hills are being destroyed beyond repair it is sickening to see our leaders “plant a tree” on the World Environment Day. Nero fiddled, they say, as Rome burnt.



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