Locals of Khumaltar, Lalitpur have risen in protest after the government authorities decided to lease out 42 ropanis of public land to private housing companies. The locals are against this move because this space served as a breathing space and also shelter for them during the times of devastating earthquakes of 2015, where many residents set up temporary tents. A year ago, Ministry of Information and Communications and management committee of Radio Nepal had taken the decision to the effect of leasing out the land but it was agreed that it would not be awarded to private sector for business purposes. Now these authorities have reversed that decision, riling up the locals. The land has been given to Kuber Gyan Housing and Laxmi Hyundai Company for constructing buildings. Locals have demanded that the decision should be revoked and that the public land should not be given to private companies for constructing buildings. It is objectionable that ‘higher authorities’ are complicit in this act. This kind of open disregard to the locals’ concerns and lack of sensitivity to save public land is unacceptable and it must be corrected soon.
Encroachment of public land and forests has become a recurrent phenomenon in recent times and yet the authorities responsible to check this illegal act have not done much to take action against the encroachers. According to recent reports, encroachment of forest area and public land has increased in Rupandehi under political protection. Likewise, land mafias in Janakpur have encroached on river banks and public spaces. The most infamous case of land encroachment was witnessed in Pokhara. As we have reported multiple times in our newspaper, around 17,000 ropanis of land in lakeside area of Pokhara have been encroached by private businesses. Though the Supreme Court in April ordered the government to remove the illegally constructed structures, the real action is yet to start on the ground. This kind of inaction in wresting public land from the hands of land mafias and private owners only embolden others to carry out their nefarious deeds unabated.
It goes without saying that our public spaces are shrinking and there is a growing tendency among business people and land mafias to encroach on public land in collusion with the government officials. If we cannot stop this in time, we will not only lose the vital open spaces to the profit mongers, we might lose place to breathe in as well. Kathmandu valley has already lost much of its open spaces to land mafias. The ground of Tudikhel is shrinking, and our cities lack parks and open spaces for people to go out and take fresh air. This is not the way to manage our cities. The municipal authorities of Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Lalitpur should work together sincerely and seriously to prevent our open spaces from becoming concrete jungles. Let’s not allow business people and land mafias to use scarce public spaces for the purpose of making money.