Men at work

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Manholes that are laid along the road often go unnoticed if laid properly. If not, it can either be left depressed or raised, from the surroundings, and reminds its presence bluntly with a nasty jolt. This is a nuisance all right, but it can also get disastrously wrong at high speed. Typically, manholes are openings, with detachable cast iron cover that help provide access to underground sewer lines etc. Such openings help maintenance crew get inside to check or clean. The circular chambers are best suited to bear the heaviest of the traffic load.

One cannot forget the traditional dhal that channelled raw sewage into valley river system and that was it as far as our sewage management went historically. Rana era manhole, with covers worn flat by constant abrasion, can still be seen on some old streets. With overall water supply at the dire level, it is no surprise that managing urban sewage is least of our concerns. It is not uncommon to see stinking liquid oozing from manhole lids flowing freely on the street with sewer line possibly blocked by solid waste of all sizes and shapes.

Incidentally, piped water that we sporadically get, though not “potable”, it is still termed “drinking water” for all intent and purpose. Currently the larger part of our urban area resembles a war zone with bulldozers and mechanical diggers running amok. What is left behind the unfinished work typically consists of mangled water pipes, jumbled up and torn telephone and electric wires, mounds of dug earth and gravel heaps, unfilled ditches and incomplete manholes. The greatest demolition experiment in Kathmandu’s urban history does not seem to end anytime soon as we have Melamchi pumping dust, rather than water, into the atmosphere these days. This may be as true in your case as in mine, no matter where we live. And one wonders where the wire thieves have gone, as no one seems to touch the cable lying around unclaimed? 

It is good that heavy equipment are being used in construction these days but despite that pace of reconstruction has remained dismally slow at the best. Either the contractors do not have adequate heavy equipment, given the larger sphere of works, or they follow the usual Nepali laissez-faire practices. In all probability, handling too many jobs at the same time with total disregard to completing works and adherence to terms of contract, if there was one! There are other agencies that need to coordinate works dealing with electricity and telephone poles shifting and making water and storm water connections etc. Who is responsible for levelling the road surface and maintaining it after the pipeline are laid? We have a foot-deep depressions cutting across most of Kathmandu’s heavy traffic streets and no agency seems to be bothered. 

The responsibility of overseeing and managing traffic follows next when everything is in place and running. With vehicle ownership rising in leaps and bounds it will be the most challenging task that needs unyielding and constant effort to put an end to roadside parking.

As for the footpath, it is best left unsaid seeing the way they are built. The concrete kerb seems to be set much too high with respect to the finished road surface. This makes it difficult not only for the pedestrians but also for the passage of vehicle of the adjoining property. The pedestrian will not hesitate a second stepping down on to the smooth road surface if that is easier.

Footpaths or sidewalks facilitate pedestrian’s passage alongside a road. These are slightly elevated, not a foot or more high as here, and they ensure safety by totally segregating pedestrians. These need to be perfectly levelled and of decent width. Both of which are, again, not applicable here. Walking on one might even be more hazardous at night if one was to collide with occasional electric post that juts out from nowhere. At times we have piped fences constricting the width even more making them “side no-walks” instead.

 That is not all, footpaths also do get encroached upon by roadside shops by dumping their merchandise or get it occupied by placing benches/chairs for people to sit and chat and even to sunbathe in winter. What is the use of all these expansion works - done in the most “inhuman” way possible - if this again leads to road chokes and more discomfort?

 By the way, when will the men stop working?

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