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Is Bagmati resurrection on right track? Print E-mail
Posted by Administrator   
Friday, 26 August 2011

 Kathmandu: It is the largest river in the Kathmandu Valley with 57 tributaries. A holy river with special significance for Hindus, Bagmati originates at Bagdwar, 25 km north of the Valley, nearby the Shivapuri hill. Besides the religious association this river is intertwined with the lives of the residents of the Valley.

However, it is pretty ironic that a river with such a huge religious significance is subjected to the dumping of solid wastes and discharging of liquid wastes. The assault to its sanctity due to all these has reached beyond repair. In September 2010, a five-year action plan called the Bagmati Action Plan (BAP) was launched by the government to rescue the deteriorating Bagmati by 2014. The action plan aims to clean and improve the river’s condition from its origin at Bagdwar to Chovar, which covers some 44 km area. The launch of BAP created hope, but still the delay and uncertainties in the implementation phase of BAP has raised questions about its completion and success.

BAP in action

The High Powered Committee for Integrated Development of the Bagmati Civilisation (HPCIDBC) is the major body responsible for the implementation of the BAP. With the support of local communities, HPCIDBC has started its work to conserve the watershed areas.
They have cleared out bojho plant from around 20 ropanis of Nagmati area. Nagmati is one of the main sources of water for the Bagmati. “We aim to make a reservoir in this area by the end of this year. Conserving watershed areas will increase the capacity of water source by 1.5 times”, informed Ram Chandra Devkota, Project Manager of HPCIDBC.
Taking the support of Nepal Army, HPCIDBC is also working to return the flow of the 8.25 km stretch of river from Sundarijal to Gorkarna according to the map of year 2021 BS (1964/1965). “We have finished the work of returning 4.25 km of the river to the original track. The remaining part will be completed soon as we have immense public support”, informed Janardan Khadka, President of Sundarijal Gokarna Bagmati Sarokar Samiti. In addition, the construction of sewerage in the eastern bank of the river from Gokarna to Guehshwori is almost completed. “BAP has an objective of making the area above Gokarna a sewerage free zone. We will be constructing small decentralized sewerages above that area“, Devkota further informed.

Measuring accomplishment

Though launched in 2010, according to Devkota, BAP came into action in July 2009. However, Devkota admits of not being able to achieve target objectives within these two years. “We have only accomplished 17 per cent work of the overall project“, revealed Devkota who claimed it would be hard to complete BAP by 2014.
Devkota mentions lack of sufficient budget for implementation of BAP as the major hurdle for this. “The proposed budget for BAP for five years is around 15 billion. It means we are supposed to get three billion per year for operating the action plan. However, the government has allocated 300 to 400 million a year, which is 10 times less than the required budget”, he argued. “The action plan will not complete even in 15 years if required budget is not allocated and if there is no support from the stakeholders “, he proclaimed.
Lack of coordination Proper coordination between different stakeholders is another factor vital for the success of BAP. However, it seems there is lack of coordination between these bodies. “It is the responsibility of municipal bodies to manage wastes so that we can work smoothly“, opined Devkota. However, Rabin Man Shrestha, Chief of Environment Management Department at Kathmandu Metropolitan City informed that HPCIDBC hasn't approached them. “We used to attend different meetings before the action plan was drafted but they haven't approached us for any help after it was launched“, stated Shrestha, who expressed “the need for presenting action plan clearly before the stakeholders so that they can also make efforts from their level“.
Around 2,400 families live in slums alongside different riverbanks of the Valley, according to Keshav Prasad Pudasaini, Section Officer at Ministry of Land Reforms and Management. Pudasaini, who is associated with Save Bagmati campaign informed, “The contract to construct sewerage on the either side of the Bagmati was handed over to the contractors two years ago. But the whole work has been halted as there is a slum settlement at Sinamangal”. “Unless there is commitment from political parties, it is impossible to remove those settlements”, expressed Pudasaini.

Independence of BAP

While financial hurdles are there, Pudasaini foresees possibilities for BAP to sustain on its own. “Land revenue offices of Kathmandu, have been taking Rs 0.5 as additional charges during registry of land as Bagmati Civilisation tax since 2008. Every year around 600 million is collected from this tax. If this revenue could be used for BAP, the action plan could sustain on its own“, he claimed. However, Pudasaini complained, “We have taken our proposal to Ministry of Finance and even to National Planning Commission, but they are not convinced with this proposal”.

Source: The Himalayan Times, August 26, 2011

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