What the people need at the moment is the immediate relief from pressing problems like heavy traffic, muddy roads and air pollution
For the last couple of years, the Kalanki-Nagdhunga road section has been in a complete mess. The world stands still there, with heavy traffic jams all the time due to never-ending road maintenance project. So is the case with Muglin-Narayanghat road section. Both sections serve as passage to Kathmandu from outside.
The hotchpotch in planning and implementation process and inadequate monitoring has led to this mess on the road. The problem aggravates during the rainy season.
Few days ago, my family members had to go to Dhading—a few miles from Kathmandu—to take part in a funeral rite. The longest time it usually takes to reach there is four hours, but they were stuck for eight hours all because of bad roads and the traffic jams. By the time they got there the funeral was over. The same story got repeated when they had to return to the valley the next day. It took them more than four hours to reach Kalanki from Satungal.
These are only two sample cases. Residents of Kathmandu valley are suffering from a number of other problems on a daily basis.
Only last month, Madhyapur Thimi areas of Bhaktapur were completely submerged following the incessant rainfall. Many shops, offices and individual houses were inundated. Kathmandu has not had to face this tragedy, but its drainage system is poor and road conditions are deteriorating. During the rainy season, the roads look like muddy field. Look at Chabahil, Jorpati, Bhaktapur, Basantapur and Thamel. These are the problems we need to fix immediately, but we are talking about prosperity, while doing nothing to achieve it.
The end of political transition has revived a great deal of hope among people for political stability. The government has also come up with the slogan of ‘prosperous Nepal, happy Nepali.’ But given the mess around us—on the roads—I sometimes doubt: Will we get there at all?
Of course, prosperity is the need of the day and the government should bring strategies to fulfill people’s aspirations. Economic development and prosperity should go hand in hand. And we need to achieve the goal of eight percent economic growth set by the government as well. But can we do it without workable plans?
Reality vs expectations
The truth of the matter is that we have not been able to fully spend our annual budget for many years. This has remained one big obstacle to speeding up infrastructure development works. And we have not been able to generate jobs inside the country either. Job creation is the key to prosperity.
There is increasing tendency to spend budget at the end of the fiscal year. The current government, like its predecessors, has continued with the practice of carrying out developmental works such as road repair and extension at the end of the fiscal year. Lack of coordination among various departments of the government comes as another hurdle. We cannot go about with our development works this way. Local, provincial and central government should utilize the budgets transparently, effectively and timely. We have the strongest government in place and yet the people at large feel ignored and overlooked.
Thus the government needs to come up with immediate action plan to solve the immediate problems. The promise of large-scale projects such as smart cities, trains, mono rails and ships sounds great, but they take too long to complete. What the people want at the moment is the immediate relief from most pressing problems they are facing. The government needs to strike a fine balance between long and short-term needs.
At the moment lack of good infrastructures, lack of safe drinking water, health care, water and sanitation, weak security systems etc are the immediate problems staring at us. Garbage management, tree plantation in the city, smooth traffic management, reliable health service, filling of potholes on the main streets, clean and safe drinking water, parking facilities, security etc are what the people want.
They will feel the change when improvement is seen in these areas. Without ensuring this, the promise of mono-rail and underground metro services sounds hollow.
Even for the big projects, we first need to get some basic things right. First, we need to create a favorable environment to empower and encourage private sectors. If we can ensure security to private sectors, they will generate many new jobs. Likewise, it will also attract national and international investment, which, in turn, will create more working opportunities and attract more youths to use their own skills and experiences within the country. Government has put domestic and international investment in priority for economic development. It should also clear the bottlenecks.
If we are to bring change to this country, government officials, ministers, elected representatives, security forces and politicians should display strong commitment for social, political and economic stability and development. They should start with the most urgent issues and then embark on big projects. Otherwise ‘Prosperous Nepal, happy Nepali’ might remain only a slogan.