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An Open Letter To Minister Pandit

Issue March 2018

An Open Letter To Minister Pandit

Siddhi B Ranjitkar


First of all I would like to congratulate Minister Lalbabu Pandit on getting the portfolio of Minister for Population and Environment, and for immediately starting off the ministerial work on punishing the culprits that spoiled the environment by every possible means. That was great but we do not want to see the possible backlash of any actions taken without considering the negative impact of such actions on the common folks.


However, making the owners of cows pay a penalty for raising the cows on the streets of Kathmandu would be one of the greatest things that Pandit would be doing. Cows and stray dogs have been the utmost traffic nuisance. As the minister had rightly said while talking to the anchor of the Radio Nepal morning program ‘antar-sambad’ that all the benefits of raising cows went to the owners whereas the public needed to endure the negative impact of cows marauding on the streets. I am sure that the minister would start punishing the irresponsible owners of cows that they let loose after milking the cows, and the minister would certainly remove any cows from the streets of Kathmandu.


The next thing, the minister has said that he would punish the dog walkers, too. Certainly, some people take the pride in having a beautiful and expensive dog, and take a dog for a walk on the streets letting the dog to soil anywhere it likes. Sometimes, a dog owner simply lets the dog to urinate at the gate to somebody’s house. I even have a problem of a neighbor’s dog coming to defecate on my gate. The neighbor simply releases the dog in the morning and in the evening, and he watches the dog to relieve at any places it wants. Minister Pandit would surely stop some folks from doing such highly rash thing.


Minister Pandit has appropriately said that he would enforce the rule of anybody soiling anywhere would need to clean up the mess. That was the great thing the minister needed to do. However, the generations of the people that have been out of schools long ago would hardly learn the lesson the minister wanted to teach. Only future generations having the right education in schools might follow the minister’s principles of cleaning.


The most notorious thing has been the construction material dumped on the streets narrowing down the street and then causing the traffic congestion. Minister Pandit needed to force anybody dumping anything on the streets or sidewalk to clean it up immediately and warned such a person not to do so in the future. However, the years have been the post disastrous quakes, most of the people are building their houses collapsed during the quakes in 2015. So, the minister might not be able to enforce the law that would prevent anybody from dumping the construction materials on the sidewalk or even on the streets.


Now, Minister Pandit needed to ride on his sleek ministerial vehicle with a bodyguard and visit anywhere in Kathmandu to find the clouds of dust, and traffic police covered in dust and dirt. Apparently, Minister Pandit would not see it because most probably his vehicle had closed windows running an air-conditioner for the luxury of the minister while traveling on the disastrously bumpy roads to avoid the dust and dirt so prevalent in the air while keeping the poor traffic police to work in the badly polluted environment. Surely, he had not seen it otherwise such a smart minister would have immediately initiated to stop such environmentally disaster pollution in the capital city.


What about Minister Pandit traveling to Boudha and beyond for seeing the highly degraded roads caused by the potholes. Probably, the minister would not see the potholes from the closed windows of the ministerial car but he would surely feel the potholes no matter how skillful his driver might be to avoid the potholes. Most probably, those potholes have been waiting for the environmental minister to fill up and ease the lives of the people and the vehicles commuting in this area. These potholes hugely contributed to the air pollution as the desperate vehicles had to travel at a very low speed with heavy inputs of fossil fuels releasing black smokes in the air to pass over those ugly potholes.


Maybe, Minister Pandit would like to travel along the riverbank roads not closing the windows of the ministerial vehicle that has an air-conditioner to filter the foul air to see the disastrous conditions of the so sacred rivers, and to smell the stink emitted from the heavily polluted rivers. Perhaps, Minister Pandit would not even be able to say whether the once sacred rivers have been simply part of the open sewer system carrying nothing but sewage.


Enforcing the ban on the plastic bags, and closing the factories producing such bags are certainly good for the health of the city but not using the plastic bags would possibly not improve the health of the poor sacred rivers that have been forced to carry human waste in the inhuman way. The focus of Minister Pandit needed to be on correcting the wrong done to those helpless rivers that had been once the beauty of Kathmandu, and sacred sites to the folks for performing any religious rites and rituals.


Now, Minister Pandit has said that he would stop the vehicles not having the green stickers indicating the emission tests they had undergone. Those green stickers would not prevent the vehicles emitting the heavy fumes as long as the potholes on the streets remained. Minister Pandit needed to fix the potholes on the streets rather than the vehicles if he really wanted to control the emission.


Minister Pandit also said that he would remove all the vehicles that had reached 20 years of age or more. That was fantastic but Minister Pandit needed to ensure that commuters would not suffer from the deficit of public-transport vehicles plying on the streets, and commuters would not need to fight a sort of war for riding the public vehicles.


Controlling the emission from the brick factories had been easier said than done in the past; however, it might not be so for Minister Pandit, as he is smarter than any other ministers in the past and the present. So, he might close such brick factories that are not eco-friendly. However, the minister needed to mind that common folks needed to construct the houses the quakes had torn down in 2015. The minister might improve the air quality in Bhaktapur where the most of the brick factories are located causing the tremendous shortage of bricks for the builders at the time when folks needed to rebuild the quake-torn-down houses.


Minister Pandit has nothing to say about the traffic jam that has caused the tremendous environmental pollution probably because he did not feel it, as the escort clears up the traffic for his vehicle to move smoothly. However, the minister might have studied the study report on how the tens of vehicles waiting for the traffic controller opening the road have contributed to pollute the air. So, Minister Pandit needed to send the traffic police for training them on a traffic control system in Bangkok or elsewhere the traffic police manage the smooth flow of vehicles not keeping them waiting at the crossroads for hours.


Voters have seen how the newly elected mayor wearing tie and his deputy wearing sleek sari have swept the streets on camera in Kathmandu after taking the oath of office. Thereafter, nobody has seen them what they have been doing. As already mentioned, the streets in the capital city are so dirty as nowhere to be seen in other capitals in the world, and the streets conditions are so poor nobody could imagine such streets exist elsewhere in the world except in the country of so honorable Minister Pandit and his boss Prime Minister Oli and their predecessors.


Former Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba had ordered to fill up the potholes on the streets of Kathmandu within 15 days. However, the potholes remained as they were during the more than nine-month term of Prime Minister Deuba that had claimed to have successfully held the elections to the three levels of the federal governance. Such a prime minister and the minister like Pandit claim to do all sorts of miracle but the potholes remain on the streets of Kathmandu as they have been for the past several years. One prime minister goes out another comes in but the potholes remain mocking the vehicles and commuters.


Minister Lalbabu Pandit has been doing the little thing to fix the stupendous environmental problem. Hundreds of billions of rupees if not dollars would require fixing the ever-deteriorating environment in Kathmandu.


First fixing the streets is the most important thing to do to correct the environmental problem, as already mentioned the decaying roads have been heavily contributing to pollute the atmosphere directly giving dust to hang on in the air and indirectly forcing the vehicles to emit the clouds of fumes while traveling on them.


Could Minister Pandit do the job of fixing the portholes on the streets? Maybe, the minister would say that fixing the bad roads is not in his portfolio. Surely, it is not but he is the minister for environment means he needs to control the air pollution but that could be done only filling up the potholes and letting running the vehicles on them smoothly so that heavy dose of fumes emitted by the vehicles running on the rough roads would not pollute the air.


Stopping the sewage flowing on the sacred rivers also not in the portfolio of the minister for environment but in some another minister’s portfolio. However, the minister for environment is responsible for keeping the rivers clean no matter how. Minister Pandit needed to acquire billions of rupees required for stopping the flow of sewage in the rivers or force his colleague another minister to do so. Whether Minister Pandit would be able to do so remains to be seen.


Minister Pandit might run from pillar to post to do tiny things such as stopping the use of plastic bags, removing stray dogs and cows from the streets; however, the huge tasks of cleaning up the incredibly fouled sacred rivers, and unimaginably rough roads that might require billions of Nepalese rupees if not hundreds of billions to fix. Would Minister Pandit be able to clean up the environment at the incredibly high cost? It remains to be seen.


Minister Pandit did not say anything about the clean vehicles run on batteries. I am sure that Minister Pandit is not ignorant of the battery-operated vehicles. Even the local newspapers have headlines of large battery-operated vehicles might be soon plying on the streets in Kathmandu. However, Minister Pandit must have overlooked them not being able to talk about such vehicles.


Minister Pandit has boasted that he would make Kathmandu a mask-free city in a year in other words nobody would need to wear a mask to protect herself or himself from the clouds of dust kicked up and fumes released by the vehicles, and the stink released from the sewerage flowing in the rivers. If the minister wielded a magic wand he would surely do so; however, he would largely need to depend on other State agencies to correct the evils they had given birth to, and Minister Pandit would be helpless until and unless other State agencies repaired and rebuilt the roads and cleaned up the holy rivers setting up a sewage treatment plants so that nobody would need to release the human wastes directly on the rivers.


For the information of Minister Pandit, folks in Kathmandu have to keep their windows shut forever to prevent the dusty air coming in. So, folks have been living in the dusty atmosphere the State agencies have unfortunately created. However, nobody has risen up to speak out against the unbearable condition. This has been due to the mindset the folks have developed from the repressive rule of the Shah dynastic rulers that did nothing for the welfare of the people for centuries.


March 2, 2018


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