'Meeting people's expectations a big challenge'


Shuklagandaki Municipality located near Pokhara, the capital of Gandaki Province, has abundant resources for development and prosperity. Picturesque high-altitude areas such as Machhapuchhre Mountain, Bhujikot, Dagaam, Gurjudum, Thaprek, Raipur, and Lamagaun add to the scenic beauty of the municipality. 

The Prithvi Highway provides access to most wards of the municipality. 

Our Tanahun correspondent Amar Raj Naharki talked to Krishna Raj Pandit, the Mayor of Shuklagandaki Municipality, elected from the Nepali Congress regarding development works and service delivery in the municipality. Excerpts:

What are the main tasks you have accomplished after assuming the office of the mayor?

We have prioritised and implemented major development plans for the municipality, focusing on infrastructure development. We have improved the main roads connecting the municipality and wards by blacktopping them. Under the assistance of the World Bank, we have initiated a project worth around Rs. 450 million for the Dulegaunda-Lamagaun road. Projects like Laladhwaj Road, Harkapur motorable road, Tin Khole Devi Road, and blacktopping of  Dhorabarahi motorable road going on. 

We have increased funding and established centres for agricultural produce collection and distribution and cold storage facilities. Free health camps and free ambulance services have been initiated to address health concerns and assist those in economic distress.

What challenges have you faced while working, and how have you tackled them?

As a local government, we are the closest to the citizens, so we have been implementing programmes to fulfil the expectations of the locals. Despite limited resources, meeting the expectations of the citizens remains a big challenge for us. However, by prioritising plans that require immediate attention and addressing the issues of the local people promptly, we have made significant progress. 

 The lack of clear delineation of authority between different levels of government has made it difficult to implement various plans. Likewise, protecting public land has also been a challenging issue for us.

Is there a plan to create employment opportunities for the youth in the municipality?

The municipality has been making special efforts to empower and prepare youth, making them capable and self-employed. For those youths returning from foreign employment, the municipality has been making arrangements based on their skills to facilitate entrepreneurship within the county. Programmes are organised in collaboration with various agencies to utilise their skills and experiences for self-employment. Cash-based subsidy programmes are being implemented to attract young entrepreneurs to agriculture and animal husbandry-based production.

As this municipality is connected to the tourist city Pokhara, how do you plan to attract tourists coming to Pokhara to your area? 

Recently, Pokhara has been declared as the tourist capital. The municipality has set a strategy for the long-term development of Shuklagandaki as a tourist hub. The objective is to draw tourists visiting Pokhara to Shuklagandaki by developing and promoting tourist areas such as Bhujikot, Dagaam, and Millennium Cave, along with promoting homestays and expanding rural tourism through training and organic farming. The municipality is trying to promote tourism based on religious, archaeological, historical, and geographical attractions, including the improvement of the trekking route.

Have you implemented the announcement you made during the election time that you will not accept any salary and allowances?

According to the announcement made during the election, I have made efforts to provide support to citizens facing economic hardship by utilising the funds allocated for me. Additionally, I have also endeavoured to connect with vulnerable and underprivileged citizens through the Secretary's office to provide resources for small-scale projects related to health, education, water supply, and other basic needs.

Has the conservation work for the encroached public lands in Shuklagandaki begun?

In coordination with federal authorities, the municipality has collected data of the public lands within the city. Plans have been implemented to conserve public property actively involving local citizens in conservation efforts. Administrative procedures have been undertaken by the municipality to consolidate scattered public lands for conservation purposes. Efforts have been made to manage landless squatters and displaced residents through agreements with the National Land Commission.

What are your plans for the upliftment of farmers who are affected by the imports of vegetables and foods from India and the monkey menace?

This is a nationwide issue, so we have engaged in consultations and discussions with relevant authorities to manage lands, utilise uncultivated lands and focus on specific areas. We are implementing targeted programmes in coordination with farmers, preparing necessary strategies, and working in cooperation with the provincial and federal governments to develop long-term plans.

Is there anything you want to say?

After the local-level elections of 2022, we are dedicated to building a prosperous and thriving Suklagandaki Municipality. We are focused on moving forward with planned policies, strategies, and programmes. Prioritising the fundamental needs of education and healthcare, we aim to implement the municipality's plans using the entire municipal system. Ensuring clean drinking water remains our top priority. Similarly, we plan to fully implement programmes such as encouraging agriculture on unused urban land and distributing subsidies based on production. 

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