BRING DOWN THE WALL: The remains of a half demolished wall in Bansbari.
When Baburam Bhattarai came to power last August, he promised to give the choked roads of the Valley a major facelift. A year later, streets around Kathmandu have been dug up, houses built along roads have been demolished, sidewalks have vanished, and bulldozers are lined up along major thoroughfares. All that remains are heaps of bricks and rubble, and the city has turned into a dust bowl.
PICS: CLIFF THREADGOLD
RECYCLING: A man searches for useable bricks to rebuild near Gyaneshwor.
Although locals of Maharajgunj, Baluwatar, Lazimpat, Kamalpokhari, and Tahachal have been vocal in their protest against the government's forceful demolition drive, it has not stopped the Kathmandu Valley Town Development Committee (KVTDC) from completely tearing down 100 houses and partially bulldozing a further 425. More than Rs 350 million has already been spent on the demolition program and the Department of Roads' (DoR) purse is expected to be lighter by Rs 450 million by the time all the roads are rebuilt.
OPEN ALL HOURS: A shopkeeper in Budhanilkantha keeps his business running even after half the building was torn down.
The government's no-nonsense approach has surprised many, and earned Bhattarai more praise than contempt. However, officials at KVTDC are quick to point out that road expansion plans were laid down 33 years ago. "The Prime Minister has taken a bold decision to begin what should have been finished decades ago," says Ram Prasad Shrestha, an engineer at KVTDC. According to him, the building code was amended twice in 1993 and 2008, but earlier governments failed to muster up enough political courage to actually implement the policy.
ALMOST CHOKED: A boy clears the debris after houses in Gyaneshwor were bulldozed.
According to the code, structures have to be built at a certain distance from the centre of the road or else they are illegal. But with the government keen to make up for lost time, even legal properties have not been spared.
Rita Rimal bought a piece of land above the Dhobikhola River in Buddhanagar. When the river threatened to wash away her holdings, she built retaining walls. Now her property has fallen prey to the KVTDC's river control program, another development scheme that is keen to ride the road expansion momentum.
LAST ONE STANDING: A house in Gyaneshwor awaits its destiny.
While the Maitighar-Tinkune, Shital Niwas-Baluwatar-Dillibazar, and Lainchaur-Golfutar stretch are on top of the government's priority list, it has earmarked the road from Kamalpokhari to Ratopul to connect the city centre with the airport. 70km of roads have already been bulldozed in the capital, and there at least 20km more to go.
RETURNING HOME: A boy searches through the remains of his house in Hattigauda.
Bhattarai has promised to give Nepalis bigger, broader, and better roads by Dasain. But with one month to go until the festival, the campaign faces newer hurdles along the Lainchaur-Bansbari section. Earlier, the government got around the stay order petitioned by some influential residents of Lazimpat, but this time it is up against immense diplomatic pressures.
HARD LABOUR: A construction worker sifts sand in Gairidhara.
The American, Japanese, and French embassies lie along the Lazimpat road, and the former has asked the state to pay up to $5 million in damages should its walls be razed down. The Japanese embassy says it will cooperate with the Nepali government as long as diplomatic norms are observed.
The BIG QUESTION: Locals of Hadigaun discuss where to move the rubble.
According to the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Missions, "a host state must take all appropriate steps to protect the premises of the mission against any intrusion or damage and prevent any disturbance of the peace of the mission or impairment of its dignity".
WHO CARES ABOUT SCHOOL: Children play with gate that was torn down in Budhanilkantha.
But if the government decides to pay all or some part of these damages, it will open up a can of worms and everyone affected will be entitled to compensation on their own terms. According to KVTDC's Ramesh Kumar Kafle, compensation is given according to government estimates, which is lower than the market price.
People who depend on the roads for their livelihood, have an altogether different concern. Santosh Sah who owns a small restaurant on the Kamalpokhari-Ratopul section, says he is struggling to pay his bills because patrons have stopped visiting his shop due to the dust and grime. He had to sell his land in the Tarai just to keep his business alive. The next time the roads are widened, to ease traffic or otherwise, his shop will be gone.
Follow the river, PAAVAN MATHEMA
The development of link roads along the banks of the Valley's rivers could ease our traffic woes
Traffic travails, DEWAN RAI
A lack of coordination among plans and government agencies has contributed to the valley's traffic chaos
The real fast track, RATNA SANSAR SHRESTHA
We should be looking to electric trains, not another road, to solve our transport problems