KESHAV STHAPIT has been appointed commissioner of the newly formed Kathmandu Valley Development Authority (KVDA). Sthapit, who
was earlier the mayor of Kathmandu, was responsible for executing some major projects related to urban planning and upgrading the city’s infrastructure. With his latest appointment, he has unveiled ambitious plans to provide a much needed facelift to the capital.
He spoke to Terence Lee of THT Perspectives about his bold plans. Excerpts:As mayor, you executed a number of plans. Do you see your new appointment as a possibility to continue this work or is it a completely different role?When I was the mayor, the municipality was only a local government entity. Whatever plans I had were difficult to execute as I’d to coordinate and obtain approvals from various bodies, ministries, other municipalities, et cetera. Though I wanted to do a lot more, it was not under my jurisdiction — even with the
Bagmati River. The same problems recurred in matters of drinking water, electricity and street lighting, as I was caught between what I wanted to do and what needed co-ordination and permission from various other bodies. As a mayor, I undertook small things that were possible. Now it’s entirely different. I’ve been appointed by the Prime Minister and the government through a cabinet decision and can now look after the whole valley. Implementation will also be easier as I’ve the authority to plan, implement and supervise. All the development agencies will now work under my coordination and so I can achieve much more and dream and plan better.You have a number of plans, but what would be your priority?I have 40 projects in mind, which will be executed in my five years’ tenure. My first priority will be eviction of squatters from river banks and their relocation. The ongoing road extension is also my priority and I plan to add some 110 kilometres within 100 days. I don’t agree with the way it was being carried out. I’ve conversed with people who would lose their land in the drive, and also met many people who are ready to give up their land and break down their houses so that the streets can be widened. I’ve also said that with houses in the front being demolished and the road widened, the remaining houses also gain, as their values go up due to the wider roads. I’m in talks with people to find ways so that nobody loses and that they get the market price as compensation.What challenges are you facing
at present?I want to continue and finish the road widening project the best way possible. The challenge is that we are running short of time. I’ve made a working calendar for myself as I don’t have enough time to accomplish all my plans. There’s a lot to be done for the rivers and prohibiting sand mining is important because the river beds are too shallow. Other projects include construction of a reservoir in the Bagmati River within five years. The government has already promised a budget for this development work but I’m confident that with support, we’ll be able to generate local funding from the people and other sources as well.How confident are you about support from the government
in the present situation, where political bickering hampers every sector?I think I’ll have the support of the government if I can make a difference and I already see that everybody is happy and offering support. When I was the mayor, I did a few small things and everybody was happy. Now I’ve plans to make a change, and I’m sure I’ll be helped. People are ready to support my plans and programmes, and have even informed me that I can begin widening roads by demolishing their houses, as they believe in my plans. There was one entrepreneur who offered to put street up lamps. Many experts are also volunteering their services for free. Even though I don’t have an office, people are meeting me and offering ideas, suggestions and support.What kind of support do you expect from the private sector? What role do you see for them in your plans?I’ve always believed in Public Private Partnership (PPP) or the three Ps as we call it. Even
when I was the mayor, I enlisted and enjoyed the support of the private sector and this is always crucial. The private sector works for profit and it’s my responsibility to show them how contributing to urban development is profitable to their organisations and themselves. The private sector is always ready to help and support if the plans are solid and make sense. I plan to make this possible through meetings and interactions to invite them to be a part of this development. They can play a lead role in my programmes, right from setting up parks to street lights. The government cannot do everything and should not even try to do so. My role is to facilitate and find ways for the private sector to get involved and get things done.