Kathmandu’s garbage problem becoming international ignominy

A video clip of CNA news showing garbage heaps in the capital has triggered public rage against the politicians and Mayor of Kathmandu. Tourism entrepreneurs say it will damage Nepal’s reputation.

A screenshot of a video news report prepared by CNA News.

NL Today

  • Read Time 3 min.

Kathmandu: Nepal’s international reputation as a tourist destination has suffered damage with the news of perennial garbage problem in Kathmandu Valley going global.  

There have been serious criticisms of the political leaders, the government ministers and the mayor of Kathmandu Metropolitan City Mayor Balen Shah, after the video clip of CNA news reports went viral on social media platforms.

The video report, apparently shot in June this year, says, “Kathmandu chokes with rubbish as villagers block road to landfill.”

“Nepal’s capital is dealing with a stinking problem. Heap of garbage is growing in Durbar Square of Kathmandu after villagers near landfill protested attempts to dump more trash there,” says the report.

Then it shows the piles of garbage in the UNESCO World Heritage Site.  “This is one of numerous spots in the capital. For weeks, proper disposal of wastes has been a chronic problem.”

A Nepali woman from Swayambhu says: “We are facing a lot of problems due to the garbage. Tourists are walking past the trash covering their mouths and noses.  We have to spit as we walk. The neighborhood is filled with garbage. This is very bad.”

A foreign tourist says in the video: “Yesterday, I went to Durbar Square.  I paid one thousand rupees to go in. I came across a massive pile of rubbish.”

Kathmandu Metropolitan City has failed to collect the wastes following obstructions from the locals of the Banchare Danda and Sisdole landfill sites. There is a suspicion of foul play by the political leaders of major parties to show newly elected Mayor Balen Shah as a failure. 

Shah, a young rapper and structural engineer, contested local elections independently for the post of Mayor of Kathmandu Metropolitan City with the sole agenda of waste management.  Frustrated with political leaders, the locals of Kathmandu voted him to the post with a huge margin four months ago.

It is often said the mayor, the only independent candidate in Kathmandu Metropolitan City’s assembly,  is not supported by other members in the municipal assembly who are from the  political parties.

Mayor Shah has often complained of lack of support and cooperation from the political parties and their leaders in his attempts to deliver.

Few days back, he pointed to Pushpa Kamal Dahal, the Chairman of Maoist Center, for protecting a contractor who failed to maintain the roads to the landfill sites, one of the reasons for failure to manage the garbage.

The Mayor of Kathmandu has repeatedly claimed that attempts have been made by the political parties to fail him in his mission of managing wastes and making Kathmandu a better city.

The coalition government led by Nepali Congress has also been criticized for failing to address the garbage problems.

Tourism entrepreneurs say with Kathmandu’s chronic garbage problem becoming headlines in international media, it has not only become a reason for the damage of the tourism industry but also a reputation damage to the civilizational identity of Kathmandu valley.

Nepal’s tourism industry, which is only beginning to show the signs of recovery after the Covid-19 pandemic, is feared to become the casualty again this time due to the failure of the government authorities to manage the wastes.

“Since this news went viral, I have received a number of inquiries from potential visitors from Europe. Who would want to come to Nepal if the government cannot keep its capital city clean?” Prem Thapa, a tourism entrepreneur based in Thamel told Nepal Live Today.

 “The Mayor of Kathmandu seems to be worried about the situation and he seems to be trying to do something. But the politicians from major parties are playing dirty politics with garbage” said Thapa. “If they cannot solve this problem, many tourists will cancel their trips to Nepal. Kathmandu is where the tourists land first. If you keep Kathmandu stinking and dirty with heaps of garbage here and there, who will come here?” Thapa asked.