What is Kathmandu Valley going to be like?

(Translated into English by Rahena Wester from a German original report of Dr.Wolf Donner)

โ€œThe uncontrolled growth of the metropolis of Kathmandu could easily lead to critical problems, if it is not successful in taking precautions against the flood of environment related degradation, a consequence of the economic and human pressure.โ€ So stated the “Kathmandu Valley Environmental Outlook” published in January 2007 during the 10th “Governing Council Meeting and Silver Jubilee of the South Asia Cooperative Environmental programs” (SACEP). This report draws a dim picture of the environment destruction in the valley and refers to the growing urbanization, the population increase, the uncontrolled and badly planned ground utilization and the inefficient coordination among the government officials as a primary cause of the general degradation.

New Road in 1966. Photo by Dr. Wolf Donner

Worse environment problems
The most critical environment problems, which the valley faces are:

1)The treatment of rubbish and sewage: “The management of rubbish and sewage in Kathmandu”, is very worrisome.

2) Uncontrolled expansion of Urban zones with neither proper planning measures, and infrastructure nor corresponding services that follow.

3) Pollution caused by air pollution, inefficient traffic control, uncontrolled settlement that degrade the water resources and the weak preparation for any catastrophes that may occur, which the valley in the near future might face itself.

The quick urbanization, unorganized transportation and generally inefficient maintenance of road-system in all zones or areas led to a deterioration of the air quality in the Kathmandu valley where the population between 1995/96 and 2003/04 more than doubled. For the primary cause at the same time the report holds the pollutant output( noxious car emission) of the motor vehicles, that quadrupled itself between 1993 and 2001, while the PM 10- Concentration in the last decade tripled.

The deterioration of the air quality affects public health negatively and for the tourism as well. The inquiry of 1702 tourists made clear that the air pollution is the outstanding problem and something must be done against it. The good visibility diminished itself of more than 25 days/months in 1970 and 5 days/months in the years 1992. Further it was ascertained that the bad air quality affects the human health and the health costs. Approximately 1600 premature deaths in the year takes place because of air pollution and the health costs in 1990 had reached almost 3 million US$.

The expansion of the city settlement hinders simultaneously the useful fertile green lands. Between 1984 and 2000, the green farm land in the valley reduces from 62% to 42 percent. “If this trend doesn’t stop to spoil the fertile green land of the valley”, then in the year 2025 no more fields are left in the valley, once so fruitful valley.

The contaminated water is regarded as the most frightening danger for the public health in the Kathmandu valley. The rubbish from industry and household are disposed into the rivers, which brings the permanent deterioration of the water quality and are responsible and brings water borne diseases such as diarrhea, dysentery, cholera and skin diseases.

Deficient hygiene and the draining in municipal and rural zones, where only 15 percent of the households, are connected with a sewage network: Because of the lack of sewage network, the sewage and rubbish are disposed into the rivers. Rivers are the most important sources for industry and household water. Round 100t, almost one-quarter of the daily rubbish remain and left decay itself in the yards, on the streets and at the banks.

What can be done to reduce this frightening situation?
The report recommends a row of measures in order to prevent the negative effects or to diminish at least. It is necessary to apply a well organized planning and zoning, ground consolidation, land pooling, better rubbish management, rain water collection, an abundance of infrastructural and technical measures as well as extensive coordination. Calm decisions organized collaboration are recommended in the areas where natural disasters threaten.

Regarding the potential to the encounter with natural disasters such as earthquake, many of these measures are not only for the human health, the development of the tourism, but rather very generally for the maintenance of the lives of people. While the growth in trade and tourism jobs brought improved standards of living, the development in the last 30 years created different physical, social, and environment related problems.

The fragile ecosystem of the valley was threatened heavily by the uncontrolled building trade and incompatible economic activities.

The weakness of municipal management have let settlements constructed wildly, growing motor vehicles, environment disturbing industries, rubbish disposal shows the picture of Kathmandu. Without any doubt Kathmandu will continue to grow and fill the valley.

The problem of Kathmandu must be solved politically and also by developing the strategies of plans. If the problems are not solved, then the Kathmandu will become a Valley of nightmare in the environment sense.

To see fotos of old Kathmandu and to read the German version, please click here.

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