Nepali Times
My Two Paisa
Not a free for all


If you are one of those who left a car or bike at a paid parking service and upon return found a dent or a scratch you hadn't noticed before, welcome to the club. And when you ask the attendant how come a vehicle under his supervision is damaged, he will shrug and deny any knowledge of it. If you insist and raise your voice, the attendant will just point to the notice on the wall 'Park At Your Own Risk".

Now, this may be trivial in the grand scheme of things, and the other problems seriously plaguing Nepal at this moment. But it is symptomatic of the extortion and impunity culture that pervades every sphere of life. The parking attendant doesn't feel it is his duty to look after a vehicle that someone has paid him to be responsible for, just like the lack of accountability in our political class and bureaucracy.

Much has been said about expanding roads in the Valley to fit the 600,000 vehicles that ply on them. But no one is talking parking. The scarcity of parking space is now a victim of the laws of supply and demand, and the fees have rocketed. Scarce or expensive parking has driven vehicles to side roads which are now often blocked.

There should be a difference between parking on the street and in a paid parking service. We don't park at paid parking areas just to dodge the KMC officials who tow away vehicles in no parking areas and charge a fine of Rs 500-1,000. When we park and pay we are not just paying the rent, we also expect a level of security. But this is a seller's market. Consumers have no say.

Perhaps it is wrong to expect security from those who are duping officials themselves. Parking in Kathmandu is controlled by a combination of municipal and private operators, gangs or local 'clubs'. There are hundreds of public parking areas in the Valley, but only 30 of them are actually registered with Kathmandu Metropolitan City office (KMC). Most of the rest are illegal extortion rackets run by neighbourhood gangs.

Any roadside space or empty lot is now a fund-raising venture for local youth. They can be knee deep in mud in the monsoon and have angry bumps, but it'll do. The parking charge fixed per hour by KMC is Rs 5 for two-wheelers and Rs 10 for four-wheelers. But even areas operated by the local ward office charge double that rate, sometimes simply on the basis of a flimsy notice on a cardboard. This means that if you have a motorcycle, you spend almost Rs 100 a week on parking alone. You never get a receipt unless you ask, and if you ask you get a glare.

The charges are Rs 25 per hour for a two-wheeler at night, with Rs 50 for cars. In a single day, a parking area in our neighbourhood rakes in an average of Rs 240,000 a month. Almost none of it goes to the municipality, or for road upkeep. For malls and shopping centres, underground parking areas have become revenue centres.

You can call this the Parking Fee Index to gauge the relative developedness of a society, or you can see it as a reflection of the "manparitantra" anarchy of our transitional politics. Muscle power rules, might is right, etc.

If you own a urban plot and the banks won't lend you for a building, turn it into a car park. For almost no investment, and just the cost of an attendant you can have hassle-free and tax-free monthly cash flow.

1. Raghu

Parking at your own risk is not just in Nepal but its applies in the western world as well. So there is no surprise there. However all the revenue goes to the city council only and they earn millions from it every year.

2. Tune
You are paying for the space, because that space does not belong to you.

3. Parking victim
I have a feeling both Raghu n Tune belong to the same parking thugs gang. Pawan has presented an issue that we've all been victim of. In the West park at your own risk means protect your car from being stolen by a car-jack and not someone who will park his car half an inch away and give a dent. These boys are paid so we feel safe and it is their duty to watch. It is because of people like Raghu n Tune that's helping our country go lawless. Thanks Pawan for bringing this issue. 

4. Aditya
The parking attendants here are very careless. Bikes are moved around to make more space, and are mishandled in the process. I've had a dent in my bike's fuel tank thrice. The first time I asked the attendant and he acted like it was my fault. I didn't want to create a scene so I left. Same the second time. The third time, my friends were also with me. Maybe that's why the attendant didn't argue much and called his boss. I wasn't compensated though. 

Just goes to show you can get away with anything in Nepal. People like us will not file cases against these petty issues, and these people will continue making money. 

5. Dai
Thanks for bringing attention to a much-needed issue. Lack of accountability with the parking lot attendants is a norm rather than an exception in KTM. I understand 'park at your own risk' slogan applies in Western world but at least there the money goes to an accountable body, with whom the public can take up its grievances. Moreover, tax revenue is generated in the process. Simply, there is 'manmani' in kathmandu and there does not seem to be anyone asking hard questions.

Lastly, I don't understand why the real estate developers have not figured out that parking lot revenue stream is a cash cow. Rather than building the highrise towers with meek demand, they should build multi-storey parking garages that promise robust cash flow. If there are ones that promise to take extra care and accountability (CCTV), I am quite sure they will be attracting quite a few disgruntled riders.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)