Nepal’s tourism capital Pokhara was well known for its beauty and cleanliness. But, lately, the city has been occupied with waste and foul odour, affecting the entire Pokhrelis. Once a city of lakes with crystal clear water and many water resources, almost all the water resources here have been contaminated now.
The sewage is mixed in almost all the rivers of Pokhara. This has not just polluted the natural and cultural heritage monuments of Pokhara but has disgraced the entire city too.
Earlier, cleaning campaigns were held to make Pokhara beautiful, but none of them was effective. Currently, no one speaks about the mess. They are accepting whatever is happening with the beautiful city, silently.
It seems the serene city is becoming the next Kathmandu as far as waste management is concerned.
Recently, the Ministry of Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation launched a committee to study waste management in Pokhara. According to the report prepared by the committee, the Seti river has been contaminated by excrement and waste from local households, cold stores and hospitals. Even the aborted foetuses are seen flowing in the rivers. Likewise, the skulls, bones and carcasses of various animals are also polluting not only water but air as well with their bad odour.
Similarly, a study conducted by environmental activist Lok Darshan Koirala and his team found excrement and sewage are being directly dumped into the Seti river. In the area that covers the river stretch from Deep to Prithvi Chok, the river stinks with murky water.
The research shows sewage has been mixed in such a way that it has even damaged the structure of the tunnel through which the water of the Seti canal passes. Currently, the canal has turned out as the sewage drainage system, says Kiran Acharya, the district head of the Water Resource and Irrigation Development Division Office, Kaski,
Prestigious institutions such as Manipal Teaching Hospital directly dump waste into the Seti river. Likewise, the residences and business houses at Deep, KI Singh Bridge, Bagar, Mahendra Bridge, Naya Bazaar and Prithvi Chok are found connecting their septic tank directly to the Seti river. Not only the Seti river, but locals are also dumping excrement, garbage and drainage water directly into the Phirke stream too.
The stream directly mixes with the Phewa lake. Garbage is thrown into the river and it also reaches the lake, which is the central attraction of the tourists in the city. Even the politicians residing here dump garbage in the river.
The waste of the Armed Police Force Training Centre, buildings, toilets and septic tanks are directly thrown into the Phirke. Similarly, the Kaski district jail and government residents around there also dump excrement, sewage and garbage in the river.
Silent local government
Many cleaning and conservation campaigns took place in Pokhara but none of them controlled water pollution and no one was prosecuted. Around 50 offenders’ names were sent to the metropolitan city office, but none of them was brought to legal action.
“The waste here makes me feel ashamed of being a Pokhreli,” says activist Lok Darshan Koirala. “The waste from boar farm, excrement, hospital and septic tank is mixed in Seti.”
The sewage has been mixed in all the rivers that are connected to the market area of Pokhara. Half of the people from the Pokhara market deserve legal action, he adds.
“Although the sewage and excrement have been mixed into the Phusrey and Bulaudi streams, Seti irrigation and other areas, the local government is indifferent,” says Ram Bahadur Poudel, a civil society leader.
Silence of intellectuals
In 2016, Pokhara was announced as a plastic-free city. But, it did not materialise into action. According to citizen activists, tons of garbage are found in the Phewa lake; it includes plastic bags and bottles.
“Despite the worsening situation of the lake, the intellectual community is silent,” says Kapil Nath Koirala, a consumer rights activist.
Pokhara used to be the most beautiful city in the country around a decade ago due to its natural beauty. However, unsystematic urbanisation and ignorance of the local government while managing its waste has added pollution to the city, says researcher Shekhar Parajuli.
Parajuli adds that the concerned authorities are indifferent to the worst situation caused by unmanaged garbage.
Strict legal provisions
According to Gandaki Provincial Water Resources and Drinking Water Minister Hari Sharan Acharya, the provincial government has recently endorsed a new law. He says the ministry would start implementing it soon.
It is not that there was not any water and sanitation law in the city before this. However, it has only remained on paper. The local government has not taken any action against anyone who has contributed to the pollution of Pokhara.
If the new act is implemented, half of the locals from the Pokhara market have to be prosecuted, says Parajuli.
According to the act, if the wastewater emitted by any factory, hotel or hospital has to be mixed in the sewage system; it should be processed and mixed within the limits prescribed by prevailing law. But, the majority of companies and businesses in Pokhara do not process their waste and directly mix them with sewage.
Minister Acharya asserts he will not hesitate to take action against any person, organisation or government agency that works against the law. Preparations for the implementation of the law will be started by government agencies.
“Such an act has been introduced to maintain the city’s beauty and control pollution. It is our responsibility to protect Seti and any rivers and lakes in Pokhara and keep them clean and tidy. Citizens should also remember their duty,” says Minister Acharya.
This story was translated from the original Nepali version and edited for clarity and length.