September 14, 2023
KATHMANDU – On August 28, Banchara Danda Landfill Affected Area Concern Committee and local residents in a press meet said they would obstruct garbage disposal at the Banchare Danda landfill site from September 18 if their concerns weren’t heeded to. But with less than a week to go for the deadline, government authorities do not seem to be taking the issue seriously, protesters say.
The committee had organised the press meet after sending memos to more than two dozen stakeholders, including the Prime Minister’s Office, Ministry of Urban Development and the Kathmandu Metropolitan City. Committee members had then reached out to all concerned government agencies in the ensuing month-and-a-half seeking a resolution of their problems without delay.
“None of the government agencies appear serious about the problems that locals have been facing for the past 18 years,” Shree Ram Dhungana, the committee coordinator, said.
For nearly two decades, hundreds of people living near Banchare Danda and Sisdol landfill sites have been suffering from various problems due to the unregulated disposal of garbage produced in the Kathmandu Valley and Dhulikhel.
Among those problems are reduced agricultural yields, disease in animals, proliferation of flies, disruption in education at school due to the stench from rotting waste, respiratory problems and skin diseases.
The Kathmandu Metropolitan City began dumping the garbage collected from the Valley at Sisdole in 2005.
In the past 18 years, government authorities have inked 175 agreements with locals but none of them have been implemented. In June last year, following protest by locals, the KMC and the representatives of Sisdole and Banchare Danda residents had reached an 18-point agreement. Before the deal, there had been a three-way agreement with the involvement of the Ministry of Urban Development.
According to the agreement, KMC was supposed to make arrangements to make both Sisdole and Banchare Danda a smell-free zone within one month. The KMC was also supposed to find out a scientific solution to prevent leachate from mixing into the waters of the local Kolpu Khola. But the KMC hasn’t made good on these promises so far.
“In recent weeks too, as local representatives, we participated in meetings called by the Urban Ministry, but the officials seem reluctant to address the problem,” said Suman Tamang, chairperson of Kakani Rural Municipality.
He said the rural municipality has been relaying the information about the people’s ordeal to both the provincial and the federal government.
“They are also indifferent to the problems and now no one can hold back the locals from protests,” said Tamang.
Meanwhile, the struggle committee’s coordinator Dhungana said that since the ministry is not concerned about their demands, the committee is holding a meeting on Tuesday to decide the modality of their protest.
“Victims from Nuwakot and Dhading will be holding a meeting in Balaju to decide the modality of our protest, and this will be the final one,” said Dhungana.
The agreement said that the main affected areas would be declared sensitive zones. The government was also supposed to make land acquisitions and relocate people from the most affected areas but locals say it has done nothing so far.
Nabin Man Manandhar, spokesperson for the KMC, said it alone can’t solve the demands of the locals in landfill sites.
“We are very positive about the demand of the locals there, but the KMC alone can’t do anything because 18 local bodies from Kathmandu Valley dump garbage in Banchare Danda,” Manandhar said.
Eighteen municipalities of the Kathmandu Valley generate 1,200 tonnes of solid waste every day. KMC alone generates nearly 60 percent of the waste.
Suresh Kumar Wagle, information officer at the Urban Ministry, told the Post that he has not been briefed on anything regarding the government’s action plan to address the problems of Banchare Danda. The urban development minister and secretary are currently on a foreign trip, according to ministry sources.
For further information in the matter, Wagle asked the Post to contact Rabindra Bohara, project chief of Banchare Danda landfill site, but Bohora didn’t answer the call.
Meanwhile, officials at the Office of the Prime Minister, where the locals had reached to submit a memo about their planned protest, said they were not aware of any such development, and asked to contact officials at the Urban Ministry.
“You can easily predict how irresponsible our ministers are,” Dhungana, the struggle committee coordinator, said. “Our people are living in hell but those who are in power don’t care. That is why we are going in for the ultimate protest.”