Nepali Times
Follow the river


It's rush hour. The Balkhu junction on the Ring Road, southeast of Kalanki, is as congested as all the other Valley intersections at this time. But the Balkhu Bridge could breathe a little easier Ė if only cars heading towards Thapathali steered their wheels to the right, to take the 'link' road that runs along the Bagmati River.

Kathmandu's chaotic traffic needs no introduction. Journeys across the city now have to be measured in hours, not minutes. There are approximately 444,000 vehicles registered in Bagmati Zone and the capacities of the roads have long since reached saturation. Traffic is often at a standstill, with significant costs in terms of lost time, needless wastage of fuel, and pollution.It's difficult to put a number on the economic cost caused by traffic jams.

"The number of vehicles in Kathmandu increased by over 100,000 last year, while the roads have hardly been extended," says Binod Singh, Chief of Kathmandu Traffic Police. The unplanned development of the valley makes it difficult and expensive to widen existing roads.

But Devendra Dongol, Senior Planner at the Urban Development Department, asserts that building link roads is the most viable option available. "Houses have not yet been built near the rivers' banks, which makes land acquisition relatively easier and less expensive," he says. Dhanapati Sapkota, Head of the Enforcement Division at the Kathmandu Metropolitan, adds that link roads also help in river management and contribute to the development of the area. There is also the possibility of planting green belts along such roads. At present, private construction has been restricted along the banks of various rivers and streams in the Kathmandu Valley, and the objective is to eventually complete a network of link roads.

UNDER THE BRIDGE: The road that runs under the Bagmati Bridge in Thapathali leads to Teku and Balkhu. Using this short-cut, vehicles can by-pass the heavy congetion at the Thapathali intersections.
Roads are now being developed on both sides of the Bagmati, Bishnumati, Manahara, and Dhobi Khola (see map). Binod Singh says that at present, 25 per cent of vehicles use these link roads, but use would increase if the roads were complete. The 2.8 km Bishnumati corridor, funded by ADB, extends from Teku Bridge to Sorhakhutte. Using this route, about 4,000 vehicles travelling between Kalimati and Sohrakhutte, which would normally go via Tripureswor and Lainchaur, chop two kilometres off their journey and a whole lot of hassle.

Not all projects have been as lucky as the Bishnumati corridor in terms of funds. The absence of coordination between responsible departments has also led to delays in implementation. Binod Khadka, Community Liaison Officer of the Dhobi Khola Project, says, "This project received approval in 2003 but actual work started only three years ago when it reached the Kathmandu Valley Town Development Committee". When completed, a surfaced road will connect Chabahil to the Bagmati Bridge at the end of New Baneswor. "Insufficient funding is now holding up the project. We are hoping that this year's budget will grant the requested capital."

Clearly, link roads offer an alternative and logical way of extending the length of the valley's roads while providing 'short cuts' across the different routes. There is potential to build such links at Hanumante (Bhaktapur), Mahadev (Balaju), Kodku (Lalitpur), Nakhu, Karkhusi andTukucha, and extend the existing connections. The recent confirmation of $22 million dollars worth of aid from ADB for traffic management will assist the further development of link roads.

Simply creating a network of link roads will not be enough, however. "The intersections have to be remodelled to let vehicles from the link roads join the main road smoothly," argues Anand Joshy, a senior traffic volunteer. "Otherwise link roads will just add to the blockage at the junctions on the core roads."

Extreme cleaners
Traffic travails, DEWAN RAI

1. DG

            Bridges  on Bagmati.-Build them to improve the Traffic.

Yes, complete the missing links of the river-side roads in time.  Design the intersections. but at the same time do not forget the bridges linking Patan with Kathmandu. They have become  almost one  town.  Minimum three bridges are necessary at this stage  itself.,  near Sankhamul ,whereBagmati joins with Manohara; near Dhobikhola joining with Bagmati and in Tripurewar, to improve traffic. 

2. anish
This is just a quick fix for Kathmandu's traffic woes. You cannot continuously keep building roads to accommodate all the vehicles. You have to have a policy on vehicle import and registration. You have to enforce traffic rules and regulations strictly. Building roads along river banks can have environmental consequences.  What about the plight of rivers themselves? I dont think there has been enough home work done.

3. Anonymous
I think, first of all, a new mindset should be cultivated in the corridors of power in KTM. (Excuse me, perhaps, new brains should be transplanted in our politicians, policy-makers and the technocrats!) The remedy to the moribund KTM is nothing, but an urgent federal restructuring of the Nation. Let there be real decentralization to the extent of devolution of administrative, economic and financial power to the periphery. Let there be four or five Federal Provinces based on the terrain, ecology (big river basins), economic potential, strategic location, energy potential and the possibility of integrating the North-South and East-West, crisscrossing "networks" of super-highways and the information super-highways. (Language and ethnicity could be additional criteria, but not the sole defining criteria for federal restructuring as proposed by some of our myopic leaders!) Let's us think of developing Specialized Economic Zones in each of the Federal Provinces. Let's create opportunity in these federal provinces. That will automatically create initiative for people to move out from KTM. If required, even the capital could be moved out to another city. Once the current population size is decreased the insult to the city will be largely reduced! Let KTM once again regenerate and prosper as an ancient city, a knowledge center, a center for spirituality and culture! Let it be a model city for eco-tourism. I think that should be the long-term strategic vision to solve the problems of KTM. Hey, the idea seems crazy?? "You may say that you are alone, but I am not the only one"

4. Daniel Gajaraj
Intercepting Drains on both sides of the Rivers.

Roads on the river bank is a good solution for the city traffic. But co-ordinate it with drains on either side  of the rivers but in the inner side , so that the road is not dug out  frequently.Build cycle track on the river side with pedestrian walkway too.Park areas development,  street furniture making  and landscaping  ,could be also undertaken. Firstly demarcate the right of way of the road with permanent pillars, so that encroachment on the road is avoided and future improvement can be done..

5. Ajaya

It's a problem of too many cars.  Adding roads is just a temporary solution. We cannot go on adding 100,000 cars a year. 

6. Jayjeev Hada
From an environmental standpoint and the vision to restore Bagmati, building roads along rivers and streams is a punch in the gut. A combination of mass transit as well as other forms that take vehicles off the streets. Mass transit, car pool, bicycles, walking, work from home, electronic and phone transactions should be encouraged perhaps?

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)