HIMALAYAN NEWS SERVICE
KATHMANDU: Human Rights Watch today urged the government to stop forcible eviction of squatters. On May 8, the Kathmandu Metropolitan City, with help from riot police, had evicted squatters from slums along the Bagmati River banks in the name of resettling the genuine squatters, leaving many families shelterless.
Authorities plan to evict around 12,000 landless people in Kathmandu and resettle them.
Citing local NGOs’ reports, the New York-based rights body said the government has destroyed 257 homes and rendered 844 people, including 401 children, homeless. The destroyed property includes a primary school for around 200 slum children.
“The first round of evictions indicates that the government of Nepal has no intention to respect the rights of the people living in settlements,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at the HRW.
“The government has obligations – at a minimum – to respect due procedure, to inform people affected well in advance, and to ensure availability of alternative housing with basic infrastructure and services,” HRW said, noting that the government has not provided compensation or social services to those affected, including the children, HRW said.
According to credible reports from local groups, the government has failed to ensure that alternative housing arrangements are adequate and sustainable. A group working with children and schools in one of the settlements reported that 25 families with children slept outside next to their razed homes for two nights after the demolition.
Another group has allowed 50 families to sleep on the floor in its nearby office. Families report they fear violence and theft, and that they have nowhere to go and nowhere to send their children to school.
In January, HRW wrote to the government, its High Committee for Integrated Development of the Bagmati Civilisation, and the Task Force on Forced Evictions, outlining the international standards that apply to forced evictions.
According to the Bagmati Action Plan, more than 4,000 squatters live along the Bagmati, while squatters’ rights groups say the figure is higher and point to the committee’s estimates that the riverside land spread in 76 hectares is home to 10,500 people. Lumanti, an NGO dealing with urban poverty, says in a report that 41 per cent of people in Kathmandu’s squatter settlements are under age 19.
Properly planned urban planning and environmental sustainability projects can advance development and promote social and economic rights, HRW noted, adding that such developments should comply with Nepal’s obligations under international law, respect the rights of the individuals and communities concerned, and conform to the best international practices.
The government of Nepal should comply with the UN-developed specific standards when embarking on development-based evictions, HRW said. These include those set out by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, in interpreting the right to adequate housing under that covenant, to which Nepal is a party and which it is legally bound to respect. Based on these standards, evictions should never leave people homeless or vulnerable to the violation of human rights.
“The need for urban development and environmental protection is no excuse for disrespecting and disregarding people’s basic rights,” Adams said.
Govt move slammed
KATHMANDU: Seventeen fringe political parties have slammed the government for bulldozing slums along the Bagmati banks in Thapathali. The government move has left the squatters in the lurch, the parties said at a meeting on Friday and urged the government to provide the squatters with alternatives.