August 14, 2022, Sunday
Nepal 1:37:26 pm

Strengthening public transportation in the Kathmandu Valley

KMC Mayor realizes inability

The Nepal Weekly
December 28, 2021

By Purna N. Ranjitkar

There are more than one thousand important cultural monuments, including several pilgrimage sites for Hindus and Buddhists in the Kathmandu Valley. Likewise, seven among ten World Heritage Sites of Nepal are in the valley.It is popular with tourists for its unique architecture, and rich culture that includes the highest number of jatras (street festivals) in Nepal. It is not only culturally rich place, but also the most developed and populated place in Nepal. The majority of national level offices and headquarters are located in the valley, making it the economic hub of the country. The valley itself was referred to as “Nepal Proper” in the past.

Bhaktapur, Lalitpur and Kathmandu are 3 districts in the 665 square kilo meter spread valley.There are 2 metropolitan cities, 16municipalities and 3 rural municipalities in those three districts.

Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) is the main city in the valley in terms of economic, administrative and social activities whereas Bhaktapur and Lalitpur are also significantly active and important. Moreover, Kathmandu serves as the federal capital as well. Thus, the valley hosts a large number of populations from across the country including its original residents. The real population of the valley is not properly stated so far. However, some say that more than 5 million people live in the valley including the short time visitors.

Being the densely populated and busy place, people need appropriate transport facilities to go here and there for professional or social causes. But the valley had never witnessed good public transportation systems. The public transportation is very poor. Hence, everyone desires to own a vehicle to tackle the poor service of public transportation system. Similarly other basic facilities such as roads and accesses, water supply and open spaces also are also equally poor.

The urban development plans and facilities for the valley do not miss to talk on better public transportation systems to be stretched from a corner to another. But implementation part used to be very weak to carry on the plans. One, few or all of the components such government policy and plan without sufficient studies, inaccess to technologies, lack of fund or lack or managerial capacity are responsible for not being able to bring plans into reality. But in most of occasions responsible authorities do not open up the reasons and find the viable solutions.

For smooth and well managed public transportation system to develop for the Kathmandu Valley metro, monorail, short distance cable cars, BRT have been proposed in different magnitudes from different sources. Federal government, provincial government and local level governments had worked to procure the appropriate one for given locations. The commoners look forward to the high sounds of the public transportation technologies to see in reality. However, none of such had been happened to turn to be tangible so far.

Mayor of Kathmandu Municipality valley recently had mentioned that metro or monorail to bring into operation in Kathmandu within his tenure was his commitment, but it will not turn to reality. He did not propose any alternative or the reason of the ‘failure’. The commoners have to understand that that was a simple commitment without any binding. So clarification or explanation is not necessary to escape.

Technically, if metro or monorail is not possible in the Kathmandu Valley, other options must be dealt on. The World Bank, Asian Development Bank and some other prestigious bilateral and multilateral agencies had conducted studies on the best options for the public transportation systems for the Kathmandu Valley. The road capacity and number of the users in the present situation and future are the deciding factors to choose as the appropriate one.

Since, metro, monorail and short distance cable cars are proved to be ‘not feasible’, BRT and Articulated buses are brought into studies. The financing agencies including Town Development Fund are considering these as viable alternatives.

However, the easiest solution in the current situation should be taken out from buses of different size (length) and passenger capacity according to the category of roads. That means, for the right solution now is adequate bus services with proper management.  The buses should be electric drive and service with punctuality and should be available from dawn to dust. Moreover, passengers must feel safe in the bus. So as the users must be safe before and after riding the bus especially in the evening hours. Thus fulfilling the minimum requirement, users will prefer public transportation rather than riding own vehicle. This feeling will contribute to reduce vehicular pollutions, reduce use of fossil fuel and increase use of electricity generated in the country by renewable energy technologies. Moreover, the said solution can be adopted immediately after the decision of authorities and existing infrastructure will support operationalize the systems anytime the vehicles for public transportation arrived.

The Kathmandu Valley is not alone to face poor public transport system in the country. The big cities and emerging big cities are also facing in – city transportation, inter city transportation and long distance transportation for public use. They also can choose electric bus systems as the available option which does not require additional infrastructure, not other than battery charging facilities. Battery charging facilities can be developed in short time and the night time charging at garage is a best way to utilize the electricity supply system in the present context.