Withdraw plan to build parking lot in Tundikhel

Published On: January 3, 2023 07:45 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

Hundreds of local residents and conservationists on Monday staged a protest outside Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) office against the plan of the metropolis to build an underground parking lot in Tundikhel. They have demanded the metropolis to withdraw its plan to build a three-storied underground parking lot in Tundikhel, also known as Khulla Manch  and leave this space open as it serves as the lungs of Kathmandu Valley. This comes in the wake of a group of conservationists running the Occupy Tundikhel campaign at a civic level to make people aware about the shrinking public space in Kathmandu Valley. Kathmandu Valley, which houses several millions of people, has only a few open spaces left now – thanks to the haphazard urbanization and the continued government apathy to save the open spaces. It is particularly encouraging to see the campaign to save open space including Tundikhel, which over the years has become the victim of encroachment both from the private actors as well as the public entities, gaining momentum. Tudikhel, which originally spanned from Ranipokhari to Dasharath Stadium, has a historic importance for Nepal and it must be kept open. 

Open spaces in Kathmandu Valley have shrunk in front of our own eyes over the years and the government authorities responsible for saving them have not been able to do much about it. Thus a campaign, or a pressure campaign to be more precise, to free the public lands from encroachment and prevent such encroachments in whatever remaining public lands we have today, was long overdue. Of course, all successive governments in the past are equally responsible for rising cases of encroachment on public lands across the country, including in Kathmandu. The encroachment drive goes far back to the Panchayat era but no governments seem to have thought it necessary to punish the encroachers because most of them happen to be enjoying the protection from one or other political parties. To take the case of Tundikhel, it had emerged in April, 2019 that a contractor had erected temporary structures inside Tundikhel and even rented the rooms to petty traders. The KMC demolished these structures after huge public outcry against the construction of those structures at Tundikhel for business purposes. But now, the KMC itself has announced its plan to build a three-storied structure with an underground parking lot. This is certainly not a positive development.

As things stand, the public spaces of Kathmandu Valley are fast disappearing. Virtually every piece of public land—from the river bank land to roads and public trails—has been encroached upon. Land mafias have made the matters worse. Locals should join hands with conservation activists as in the case of exerting pressure on the KMC authority to keep Tundikhel open to save all the open spaces that exist today in Kathmandu Valley. The importance of saving public spaces in the heavily-crowded city like Kathmandu from encroachment is obvious. Rising dust and air pollution has posed serious health hazards to the people. Open spaces do not only bring fresh air but also help battle pollution. Their importance was starkly felt during the devastating earthquakes of 2015 when the residents of Kathmandu all flocked to the open spaces to set up tents and create temporary shelters. As open spaces continue to shrink and big houses are blossoming around, there is less chance of surviving if an earthquake of a big magnitude hits Kathmandu again. Thus, KMC should shelve its plan to build the underground parking lot and keep the Tundikhel open. This would be in the larger interest of all living in the country’s federal capital city.

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