Dakshinkali Municipality (DM) has made great progress in the fields of agriculture, drinking water, road construction and the development of infrastructure of government schools. The municipality has also introduced a social component to the local curriculum which includes information about the geographical, historical and cultural aspects of Dakshinkali Municipality. Focusing on these topics, The Rising Nepal’s Binu Shrestha talked to Mayor Mohan Basnet. Excerpts:
What programmes have been carried out since your election as the mayor of this municipality? We have prioritised education, earthquake victims, health and drinking water while working. We are working to connect each of our nine wards with the municipality with an agricultural path. Travelling from Dakshinkali to Kathmandu and back has become easier now because 98 per cent of the construction work on this road section has been completed. A tender for the blacktopping of the Dakshinkali–Makwanpur road has been called. We have also proposed the construction of a road from the Pharping Bus Park to Humane Bhanjyang under the municipality’s coordination and monetary help from the provincial government. Probably, a certain budget will be allocated for this project this month. With regard to the infrastructure of educational institutions, there are 20 government schools in the municipality. With the financial support of the National Reconstruction Authority, we are building new structures for the schools to replace the old ones that were damaged by the 2015 earthquake. We have completed building infrastructure for 18 schools and will finish the remaining two in the next two to three months. The building of Champadevi Secondary School in Ward No. 1 is being constructed with a big budget of nearly Rs. 120 million. To solve the problem of drinking water in the municipality, we have constructed tanks in each ward with a capacity to hold 500,000 litres of water and have called tender to expand the pipeline to facilitate distribution. We are working to ensure that every resident in every ward has access to drinking water before the end of the current fiscal year. We will complete the construction of the water tanks and begin supplying water to the people of wards 5, 6 and 7 within a few months. We believe this project will help solve the problem of water scarcity that emerged after the earthquake which caused many water sources to dry up.
What have you done in the agriculture sector? The municipality manages the agricultural grants provided by the federal and provincial governments. We also manage the distribution of seeds and fertilizers and work to provide them to the farmers on time. We are trying to encourage farmers to be more production-oriented by introducing various projects. The pear-producing village of Ward No. 8 has been recognised not only by the municipality but the entire district. In fact, it has been declared a pear village by the provincial and federal governments. Scientific pear farming is moving forward in an encouraging direction in the municipality. Currently, farmers have to sell their pears within 10 to 15 days of their ripening to prevent them from decaying. This forces them to sell at low prices. To end this situation, we are going to build mini cold storage facilities in several places to allow the farmers to store their pears and sell them at higher prices during off-season. Our municipality is also known for Nepali hog plum (Lapsi). So far, the fruit is only used to make pickles but we want to use it to for making candies and other items to promote at a national and international level. For this, we have been organising training programmes. We are also trying to attract farmers towards commercial floriculture. We want to develop specific blocks or pocket areas for vegetables, pears, flowers, etc.
What is the municipality’s coordination with the provincial and federal governments like? On paper, the way the local, provincial and federal governments should coordinate with each other is defined by the constitution. In reality, however, our coordination with the federal and provincial levels is driven by access. Only those with access are able to obtain a big budget and support from the federal and provincial levels. It is a bitter truth that Dakshinkali Municipality does not receive support from the provincial government when sought. Both federal and provincial governments have snubbed our repeated requests for support. But we are not discouraged by the lack of support.
What are the steps the municipality has taken to promote heritage sites as well as places of natural beauty? We are planning to develop trekking trails in the surrounding hills in coordination with the Nepal Tourism Board. Trekkers can use the trails to reach the hilltops where they will be greeted by a beautiful view of Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur. They will also be able to view several mountain ranges. So, the trails will bring in domestic and foreign tourists and help generate employment opportunities. Similarly, our long-term plan is to develop the historic Shikhapur as a place for tourists to stay after hiking the nearby hills. We are also going to establish a tourist information centre at the bus park where visitors will be able to get information about the heritage sites, natural locations and other worthwhile destinations. The municipality has allocated Rs. 1.5 million for this. Our next plan is to develop the nation’s first hydroelectricity station – the Chandrajyoti Hydroelectric Power Station – as a museum. We also hope to promote temples like Dakshinkali, Gorakhkali and Bajrayogini and identify various places in the municipality where Guru Rinpoche is believed to have spent his time during his austere life. If we are able to complete these works as planned, we will be able to attract a large number of tourists to the municipality. Likewise, the Kathmandu-Hetauda track, which was opened through the determination and efforts of the municipality and people, is now being blacktopped. The provincial government allocated the budget for the blacktopping. The Pharping Dakshinkali area will become a central hub in a few years. The dry port being constructed in Chobhar, the Kathmandu-Terai Fast Track Road, the Kathmandu-Hetauda Road are some of the major projects that will make the area a central point in the next eight to 10 years. A footwear zone is being set up in Ward No. 7 where around 10 footwear factories will open within next two months. More factories will be established in the coming years. Assuming that a single factory employs 100 people, the zone will create a large number of jobs for the people of the area. The municipality is ready to create a favourable environment for the industries.
What did the municipality do during the peak of COVID-19 pandemic? How does it plan to strengthen the health sector? The municipality was on high alert throughout the peak of the pandemic. We were successful in keeping the infection and mortality rates low in the city. The federal government has also recently approved the building of a municipal hospital. We have completed preparing the Detailed Project Report (DPR) for this and work is moving ahead. Furthermore, we are trying to manage the Chalnakhel-based hospital where we had set up quarantine and isolation centres to properly shelter COVID-19 patients. We are also working to establish a health post in each of our nine wards and train health workers. We are trying to engage our residents in Yoga. We have started four Yoga centres in the city to educate people about the importance of the practice for a healthy life. We have started opening Yoga centres at the ward level.
What programmes has the municipality introduced to improve the quality of education? Education is an issue that worries us. It is an unfortunate trend here that parents enrol their daughters in government schools while seeking English-medium boarding schools for their sons. We have devoted ourselves to ending this practice for the past one and a half years. To create an environment where all children can receive the best education at government-run schools, we have built new buildings for them. We have also installed CCTV cameras in all schools so we can monitor the activities of the teachers. The municipality has prepared a local curriculum with an emphasis on culture. This curriculum, which focuses on the city’s history, traditions, ancient sites, temples, caste groups, agricultural activities and geological location of the municipality, is mandatorily taught to students of Grades I to V in all government schools. For years, we have been pushing our children towards Anglicisation. Guardians want their kids to be fluent in English. But in pursuit of English education, we have forgotten to teach the children about our own culture and nation. We are producing a human resource that has no knowledge about their own city and country. So, we implemented our local curriculum. Now, we need to wait for around 10 years to see the results of our effort. Meanwhile, we are also trying to involve boarding schools in several education improvement activities of the municipality. We have also invested in teacher training programmes.
Is the local government doing anything to preserve the historical building of the Tribhuvan Adarsha Residential Secondary School? Legally, properties that belong to the royal family are under the jurisdiction of the Nepal Trust. As a former royal property itself, the school and its 68 Ropanis of land are registered in the Trust’s name. The municipality had asked it to provide five Ropanis of the school’s land to build the administrative building of the municipality. The board of the Trust agreed and decided to lease the land to the municipality at a cost of Rs. 1.8 million per year. The decision is now awaiting approval from the Council of Ministers. Our responsibility is to preserve and improve the school and its structures because it is a historical pillar of Pharping. We have allocated Rs. 1.2 million for the repair and painting of the school building.
What are your plans for the rest of your tenure? There is no plan to introduce any new project. We will focus on completing the ongoing projects. Some cable car companies have signed agreements with the municipality to operate cable cars in three separate places. Of them, the cable car from Chalnakhel to Champadevi hilltop will be inaugurated on the first or second day of the coming Nepali month of Baisakh.