The action was resisted by clash with city police, peaceful solution is in need
By Purna N. Ranjitkar
The situation at the banks of the Bagmati at Thapathali in Kathmandu became tense on a week back after the security people from Kathmandu Metropolitan Corporation tried to remove the landless squatters’ settlement from the area.
Tension erupted after the locals pelted stones at the team of police from the KMC who reached there to remove the settlements. They demanded alternative arrangement from KMC before removing them from the area. Landless squatters burned tyres and obstructed the road leading to the squatter settlement around Thapathali area in protest of KMC action.
The residents of the squatter settlements, who came out with homemade weapons such as khukuris and sickles, showed outrage and yelled slogans against Home Minister Bal Krishna Khand, and Kathmandu Mayor Balen Shah.
The High-Powered Committee for Integrated Development of the Bagmati Civilisation and the city government issued a notice on November 4 asking the landless squatters to vacate the settlement by November 20. Some high leaders expressed their concerns to protect the squatters’ insistence. They also have shown their indirect protections to theme. Some said that the squatters are their vote bank and also a reserved source for the political activities as well.
Free investigators revealed that some of so called squatters own valuable properties in the Kathmandu Valley while many possess costly gadgets and domestic devices. Likewise, the people staying as squatters even have their offspring staying abroad for studies and work.
In the meantime, the Commission for Land Management has urged concerned authorities to stop actions to vacant the squatters. Nepal, like other developing countries face problems on slums and squatters. The problem is serious, particularly, in the Kathmandu Valley in Nepal’s context. The slums and squatters problem is one of the issues that have not been solved despite of legal efforts.
People come from various parts of the country in search of opportunities is main reason of growth of squatters in the valley. Political and social escaping may be another reason for the people to struggle for livelihood in the all the best part of the country. Some squatters are there for quite a long in the valley and a lot of them joined in the later phase. Some from neighbouring countries also contribute to increase the number of squatters.
People happen to land with better prospective at the better off cities with hopes to stay there for survive first and progress gradually. But due to lack of sufficient income to bear the cost of living they manage to occupy the abandoned land to escape the rent of living space. The people, thus, occupy the land and build space just to have shelter use to be the aim.
The Government data say that there are 27 unauthentic settlements in the Kathmandu Valley. Number of families of the squatters stand are around 3466.
Squatters live on the banks of Bagmati, Bishnumati, Tukucha, Dhobikhola and Manohara rivers and some other places. Manohara riverside is one of the most densely populated settlements in numerous huts. The settlements that are along the river side are highly vulnerable to the tainted environment and floods.
Rapid urbanization, low socio-economic growth, inadequate capacity to cope with housing needs and poor governance has caused increase of urban poverty and slums and squatter settlements in the Kathmandu Valley, studies say. Rapid urbanization and deficient capability to the housing needs of people in urban areas have contributed to the expansion of informal squatter settlements. Almost 6.6% of the total population of the country enters the Kathmandu Valley each year with the hope of getting better opportunities. The growth rate of squatter settlements in the Kathmandu valley is 12% to 13% which stimulates the flaming issue by adding fuel to the firewood. People residing in a squatter area tend to be highly vulnerable to the tainted environment and natural disaster risks.
The political parties are clever enough to use such people in own interests. They make such people easy tools. The legal provision though well empowered to enforce many times have been seen as toothless against the squatters’ power. Therefore, such problems are not easily solved.
The authorities get trouble in identifying real landless people to solve the problems. Because all those who unauthoritically occupy land are not landless people. There are some involved to get benefit of doubt. Such doubtful people can influence by hook and crook for their benefit and create more troubles to authorities. Some of the squatters are seen living much comfortably in middle class styles.
In the past, the government had put efforts to manage and relocate the problem in the past with view to manage the living of the squatters. The squatters at Bagmati River bank near Thapathali and Kalmochan were forced to evacuate deploying the machines like excavators. The squatters at Manohara river bank also were tried to remove. But, later, all of them come back to the same place. The number of come backs looks like more than earlier count.
The government authorities put efforts to relocate them at Sundarighat (near Kirtpur) and the premises abandoned after removing of Himal Cement Factory at Chobhar. The locals did not allow them to settle them at the said places. A community house was built at Ichangu Narayan for some squatters to settle. But squatters preferred to stay at Thapathali, Tripureshwar and other city locations. Thus, they even came out to protest with domestic arms to drive away the KMC forces and other ignoring actions of other authorities. However, the peaceful solution for the squatters’ problem in KMC and the Kathmandu Valley as whole could be shifting to Government real landless people to allocated buildings or location. The parties with vested interests must not interfere the legal actions.