Kathmandu metropolitan city is planning to build a three-storey underground parking facility by destroying Khulamanch, one of the few empty spaces in the city.
The Town Development Fund has been asked by the city government to prepare a report on how it could be done. But, the city government has not held any discussions about this locally.
This plan of the metropolitan city has endangered the very existence of Khulamanch, which has been an important part of the city’s cultural, traditional and political heritage.
Urban transportation system experts have asked for an explanation after the metropolis about why it secretly pushed forward the plan. Mayor Balen Shah is yet to respond to questions from activists and experts.
So what is the city’s plan? In the name of removing the city’s parking problem, why does he want to destroy a major landmark in the city?
Onlinekhabar spoke with Navin Manandhar, the city’s spokesperson to talk about the city’s plan, the need for such a place and dealing with criticism.
The executive body of the metropolis has asked the Town Development Fund to study the construction of an underground parking facility in the open platform. Has the construction process of the parking lot started?
We haven’t gone there yet. The process has only just started.
What are you planning to do at Khulamanch?
We used a dozer to flatten the land at Khulamanch to lay grass. Along with that, we’ve asked the Town Development Fund to prepare a detailed project report to build a three-storey underground parking facility. The fund is looking at what can be done without digging a single hole. We’ll soon know how it can be built and how much time and money it’s going to take.
Right now, we’re just keeping the place clean. The place had a lot of debris as most construction materials were kept there during the construction of Bir Hospital’s new wing and the reconstruction of Durbar High School.
Is it justified to ask for a detailed project report by avoiding basic processes such as a pre-feasibility study, feasibility study and public hearing to get people’s opinions?
If the DPR states the project can be done, we will hold a public hearing on this issue.
Transportation system experts have called it a plan to increase the number of private vehicles in the city. Why did the metropolis have to choose Khulamanch for parking?
We want to solve the parking issue that has plagued the city and see if we can also build roads underground. We want to see if we can connect the Old Bus Park, Khulamanch and New Road via an underground road.
Have you not studied the capacity of the current parking infrastructure and the need for additional infrastructure before asking for the DPR?
All studies are done by the Town Development Fund, which is responsible for DPR. After the study and proposals are prepared, we take everyone’s opinion and cooperate with everyone.
Why is there a rush to create a parking lot at Khulamanch without conducting a general study/discussion about the technical nature of Kathmandu’s traffic problems and parking lots?
We discussed this with experts at Marriott Hotel a week ago. We have discussed this with other agencies and even people from some UN bodies in one state.
Independent experts are saying that the project would be great if it focused on the core city.
We don’t care what other people say. If we can solve the problem for the next 20 years, we will be happy.
Khulamanch is public land, not government land. Voices have also been raised that the metropolis, which needs to protect such land, cannot use it indiscriminately. What is the opinion of the metropolis about this?
Are we not the government? Aren’t we called the local government?
But public open spaces like this are for the people, aren’t they?
Don’t talk to me presenting yourself as an advocate of a certain agenda. I’m here to tell you what the metropolis is planning.
Then, if the DPR shows that underground parking can be built at Khulamanch, will the city build it?
You must understand that in the end, we will hold a public hearing with the stakeholders. If they agree, we will move forward.
This story was translated from the original Nepali version and edited for clarity and length.