New Road dispute unresolved: Conflict between mayor and ward chairman intensifies

Published On: June 24, 2024 12:00 PM NPT By: Safalta Bhandari

KATHMANDU, June 24: The New Road area is currently in the spotlight due to one controversy after another. In particular, the confrontation between the ward office and the metropolitan city has brought New Road to the peak of attention.

The attention surrounding the New Road area started with the Kathmandu Metropolitan City's initiative to expand the footpath and has yet to subside. When the metropolitan city initiated the plan to widen the footpath, the Department of Roads, which falls under the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport of the federal government, intervened. The department halted the metropolitan city's work, claiming it was against road laws, and repaved the area. The Department of Roads obstructed the work of the metropolitan city and re-paved the area overnight.

Although the direct confrontation appeared to be between the metropolitan city and the Department of Roads, sources reveal that the main conflict was between Kathmandu Mayor Balen Shah and the chairman of Ward 22, Chinkaji Maharjan. Maharjan, who was elected from the CPN-UML, along with New Road's business community, also obstructed the metropolitan city's work.

Furthermore, the New Road dispute became even more complicated after Mayor Balen took these issues to the top leadership.

Top leaders themselves made statements on the matter. Members of Parliament from the main opposition party, Nepali Congress, even expressed in Parliament that Mayor Balen should be allowed to work.

Balen's understanding and 'war' against UML

A source close to Mayor Balen stated that he had prioritized the plan to expand the footpath in the New Road area. However, Mayor Balen perceives that the representatives affiliated with political parties have been obstructing this plan. He has even expressed this view on social media.

"Those who protested against the closure of parking on the roadside in the New Road area last year in January are now stepping forward to stop the sidewalk expansion," he wrote on Facebook. "Think about it, how can parking that takes up more than three feet of the road not make the road narrower for cars, but when that same space is cleared for a sidewalk, it suddenly makes the road ‘too narrow’ for cars?"

Ward chairman Maharjan came against this. It is understood that Maharjan has obstructed the work of the metropolis through the Department of Roads. According to Balen, Deputy Prime Minister Raghubir Mahaseth, who is in charge of the transport ministry and is a leader of the UML helped Maharjan to obstruct Metropolis’s work through the department.

Mayor Balen last week poured a truckload of dust in front of the Department of Roads and Road Division, Kathmandu, stating that the people of Kathmandu have been suffering from dust due to the delayed completion of the expansion of the second section (Kalanki-Basundhara) under the ring road expansion for the past 15 years. The Road Division Office issued a statement describing the action as a violent and chaotic move by the Kathmandu metropolis and warned metropolis not to repeat this action in the future.

Balen has not stopped there. He has intensified his criticisms against CPN-UML Chairman KP Sharma Oli. Specifically, he expressed his concerns over the Rs 100 billion scandal involving Giri Bandhu Tea Estate under Oli's leadership. Oli was required to respond to these allegations. 

Another round of dispute

The dispute in New Road had settled a few days ago. However, it seems to be resurfacing again. The current issue is that Ward Chairperson Maharjan has removed plants and torn down fences along the footpath in the New Road area.

Currently, trees on the footpath of the New Road area have been uprooted, and fences have been demolished. The Metropolitan City had planted saplings with the aim of creating greenery in the New Road area.

Ward Chairman Maharjan says that since the footpath needed widening, the trees have been relocated elsewhere. He said that the footpath needs to be widened so the trees were removed to widen the footpath. "After removing the trees, there will be a little more space for pedestrians to walk, and it will not be necessary to expand the footpath," Maharjan said.

Maharjan admitted that the ward office also removed railings adorned with images of Kumari's eyes and Kasthamandap from the New Road area.

The mayor's secretariat indicated that they would pursue this matter legally. The KMC Secretariat clarified that there was no coordination with the metropolitan city when removing plants and railings, and these actions were taken independently.

"We are still gathering information," stated a member of the Mayor’s Secretariat. "There was no coordination with the ward office. If this continues, legal steps will be taken," the member added.

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