In defence of Balen Shah: Why Kathmandu mayor needs your support now

Balen Shah. Photo: Chandra Bahadur Ale
Balen Shah. Photo: Chandra Bahadur Ale

In the local elections last year, the people of Kathmandu voted for Balen Shah for the capital city‘s mayor, whom many people had thought would lose the elections as an independent candidate.

The people of Kathmandu had high expectations of him after his win. Apparently, it was a revolution that resulted in many young candidates winning the federal and provincial elections held in November of the same year.

However, Shah, of late, has faced criticism for several of his projects. But, this is the time for general people to understand his intentions and limitations and be hopeful about the future. They need to support him and his agenda.

Balen Shah’s priorities and projects

The first thing Balen Shah focused on was the problem of pedestrian pavement encroachment. Being the mayor of Kathmandu, his first responsibility is the well-being of his voters. He was right that all people should walk freely. Those who want to do business should rent a shop, pay taxes and do business. What’s wrong with that?

But, many prominent individuals criticised the mayor for that. In Kathmandu, there are not many open spaces to manage street vendors. So, what is the role of the provincial and central governments? Is it not their duty to relocate them?

Then comes the never-ending problem of waste management. We have known that it is a chronic problem, which cannot be managed overnight. Yet, Balen Shah has made some efforts and we should appreciate that.

Kathmandu Mayor Balen Shah meets officials of Nepal Electricity Authority and Kathmandu Upatyaka Khanepani Limited in Kathmandu, on Tuesday, July 19, 2022.
Kathmandu Mayor Balen Shah meets officials of Nepal Electricity Authority and Kathmandu Upatyaka Khanepani Limited in Kathmandu, on Tuesday, July 19, 2022.

It is not the only problem of Kathmandu but other municipalities too. Still being an engineer and mayor of Kathmandu, he is taking lead to manage waste, but neither provincial nor central governments are helping to find suitable land fields. So the question is: is it only the responsibility of the mayor?

Likewise, all major metropolitan cities around the world have underground metro and parking. Shah wishes to make underground parking in areas like Khulamanch, but a handful of people are against it. It does not mean he should stop developmental work.

With population growth, the number of people and vehicles has increased significantly, so it is natural to widen the roads, but few politicians are against it. They were silent when illegal constructions of general people were removed but became violent when their constructions were removed. These illegal constructions were cleared according to law and at the local people’s request. What is wrong with that?

The problem of being Balen Shah

The Kathmandu metropolitan city central office - KMC
The Kathmandu metropolitan city central office

Mental pain might be less dramatic than physical pain, but it is harder to bear. Although Mayor Balen Shah has not publicly stated it, it appears to have affected him directly or indirectly. He and his family might have got many threatening calls and abusive messages.

At present, it seems only metropolitan police are actively working and supporting the mayor. What about other departments? Their work or feedback is not seen on the ground. Mayors may set policies, but it is equally important to put those policies into action and monitor the results. Otherwise, the situation will be much like the one in which many construction companies have failed to finish building roads or bridges for many years. Government staff members who are in charge of that particular task should adhere to these.

Meanwhile, Balen Shah’s team has also not received sufficient support from the central government.

We just blame the politicians, but the staff are also as accountable for the current state of our nation today. Despite being surrounded by numerous people, the independent mayor is lonely. No one escapes pain, fear, and suffering.

The show must go on

Yet, from pain can come wisdom, from fear can come courage, and from suffering can come strength — if we have the virtue of resilience. Let’s hope Mayor Balen Shah develops wisdom, courage and more strength.

Our system has three layers of government, and it is the collective responsibility of all to make Kathmandu better. He is making every effort for the development of Kathmandu, but a few people are creating hindrances.

But, we all need to know that if he fails, the country will suffer.

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Dr Yadav is a medical practitioner.

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