The government will launch special programmes to revive the rivers in Kathmandu valley to their condition about 50 years ago, a high-level government panel told the Supreme Court (SC) Wednesday.
The panel led by secretary at the Council of Ministers Trilochan Uprety, presented its plan to clean the rivers and create suitable living conditions for aquatic plants and animals within five years at a SC hearing Wednesday.
The government had formed the panel after repeated SC directives to revive the valley rivers. It includes secretaries from the local development ministry, physical planning and works ministry, environment ministry and Kathmandu metropolitan city.
According to the plan, the government will construct six large and 28 small water treatment plants at various places in the valley to clean the rivers, free the rivers from any kind of encroachments and plant trees on the river banks as well as the hills around their origins.
It will also introduce laws and regulations to make the construction of a septic tank compulsory while constructing a house, office or any other building to prevent the trend of connecting sewage pipes directly to the rivers.
To feed the rivers during dry season, when the rivers look no more than drainages, the government plans to construct a large reservoir in Sundarijal and collect water in the rainy season.
A detailed feasibility study will be carried out in the first year, and the plans will be implemented in the next four years, the panel has told the court. The panel has estimated the cost of the programmes to be about Rs 16 billion.
The government will earmark Rs 4 billion each year for the next four years, even if the Indian government does not provide the aid as promised, the panel said.
The steadily increasing population and related solid waste dumping in the rivers, discharge of industrial effluents together with direct discharge of domestic sewage have made the Bagmati River and its tributaries excessively polluted. The river’s capacity to purity itself by means of interaction between biotic and abiotic characteristics of the river has been slowly failing. On the other hand, the Bagmati and its tributaries still occupy a special religious and cultural importance. It is still an important place for rituals. Unfortunately, the structures around the ghats where rituals are performed are rapidly deteriorating. These archaeological and historical sites are in an immediate need for effective protection and management.
A recent study (KAPRIMO, 2007) on water-flow and water quality has indicated a very alarming situation and classified most parts of the rivers within Kathmandu valley excessively polluted. The pollution of these rivers has deeper impacts on overall urban environment and human health. However, experiences from China, shows that it is possible to restore and conserve polluted rivers such as Nanjing Qinhuai River, if there is a will and determination to do so.
The Bagmati River is currently used for different purposes, including: (1) the major sources for municipal, industrial, and irrigation water for Kathmandu Valley; (2) cultural and religious practices; (3) disposal of water borne effluent and deposition of solid waste along the banks; (4) extraction of sand, (5) spaces for public infrastructures e.g. roads and water tanks, and (6) preferred zones for squatters and other encroachments. However, there is a serious lack of planning, regulations, enforcement, and implementation of appropriate and effective programmes. To address the complicated issue of Bagmati conservation, there is need for developing a comprehensive and practical Bagmati Action Plan (BAP) to fill the gap of an updated guiding document to address the key issues.