Once upon a time, in the region of Shangri-la of the Lost Horizon and towered above by the Himalayas was a valley known as Nepal. In course of time this paradise in the midst of the Himalayan region came to be known as Katmandu or even Kathmandu. There were even rumours of a ‘Green eyed little God to the North of Katmandu’.
Besides Tundikhel, the highest parade ground in the centre of the city there were innumerable ‘Green Areas’ scattered all over the town the numbers of trees gave the city a very friendly eco-environment.
Following an earthquake some 84 years ago the city boasted of a Bhugol or World/ Globe Park in its midst. Then came into being the Tribhuvan Park at Thankot and the parks at Balaju at Gokarna as picnic spots for the populace. The rulers of the land then, the Ranas living in their palaces provided green areas nearby where their followers were expected to come daily to do chakari and darshan of their masters.
During the last four decades these green oasis of the valley have been usurped by the army, police or AFP in the subsequent years. I fondly remember practising on these sites prior to getting a driving license! The Gaucharan on the Eastern area of Kathmandu and adjoining the Pashupati area was at one time a golf course with 36 holes but has now been reduced drastically because of the expansion of Tribhuvan International Airport. Presently it is just 9 holes par course around which golf clubs can be swung. The Sanu Gaucharan has been turned into a soccer field, The Chauni green chaur is occupied by the army hospital and museum. A part of the Tundikhel area has been transformed into the Dasrath Rangshala. These developments for the common good are okay. Tundikhels in some of the outlying cities have been converted into the town's bus park. Of course these are providing a service but increasing pollution in residential areas of the town. Ratna Park was created by dividing the Tundikhel and has now been modernised with Wi Fi. The Sankha Park along the Ring Road, created around Panchayat days is being outclassed by the Sankhamul Area Park with its massive Sankha along the proposed Bagmati corridor gardens.
A quarter of a century ago the then PM Krishna Prasad had announced that the proposed Melamchi Project and the water that it provided would be enough for the people to wash the Kathmandu streets clean. Melamchi, now no longer like the proverbial water provider of the desert oasis, is about to deliver water in abundance to the residents of Kathmandu valley. Recently asphalted and paved roads of Kathmandu valley have been dug up, massive pipes for conduit of water been buried in the trenches. Sadly the roads cannot be re-tarred until the water flows in the pipes and these have been tested for leakage! The massive movement of motor bikes, scooters plus light and heavy vehicles has transformed the capital and should perhaps be renamed as Dustmandu. Many of the citizens go around with masks on their faces whilst the gentler gender riding pillions on the two wheelers have cloth wrapped around their heads as a ninja. The dust not only makes breathing more difficult but the visibility along the roads even in broad daylight makes movement along the capital roads hazardous. The limited 13 points with traffic lights no longer function properly and create problems for the female traffic police to regulate the flow of traffic. The solar panels of street lights, now covered with dust have their efficiency decreased so that streets become dark even in the evenings. Many now pray for water from the heavens so that life in the capital becomes a little more liveable. Perhaps we ought to go back to the days when Queen Elizabeth II made a State visit Nepal and the traffic signals were controlled by a policeman nearby turning the switch on and off as the Royal Cavalcade passed by.
Recently some cine artists staged a protest at Chabahil, referring to our capital as Laajmandu. The present difficulty of the citizens of the valley brought to my mind the antics of Adolf Hitler many years ago when he invaded Poland with the plea that there was a necessity for Germans to have 'Lebensraum'. Do we the citizens of Kathmandu valley not have the rights to breathe the fresh Himalayan air which should be the birthright of all of us Nepalis?
The new laws of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal are supposed to make it mandatory for each ward of the capital to have a park. A start has been even made with the one at Narayanchaur in the Naxal area of Kathmandu. Another is Tinkune, on the road to Bhaktapur. What about at other places? The old Nagarpalika site in New Road and the Charkhal site at Dillibazar, presently occupied by Armed Force Police should be developed for the inhabitants of the region. Some sort of agreement and understanding can be made with the litigants wanting their back with the understanding that this is a step for the common good of the people. But not only solid ground but also the water tanks like the Rani Pokhari, Kamal Pokhari and Naag Pokhari of Kathmandu, Siddhipokhari of Bhaktapur and the Nhu Pokhari of Lalitpur should be restored to their former glory by filling them up with some of the waters of Melamchi. They will provide much space for our citizens of Kathmandu valley to celebrate in the afternoons and evenings, especially during the Jatra times.
The author writes fiction under the name of Mani Dixit. Website: www.hdixit.org.np. Twitter: @manidixithd