Is Kathmandu a livable city?

Where is Kathmandu?

Kathmandu is the capital city of Nepal. Geographically, Kathmandu lies in the northwestern part of the Kathmandu Valley (Kathmandu Valley is the agglomeration of Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Lalitpur districts) to the north of the Bagmati River. It covers an area of 50.7 km2 (19.6 sq mi). The average elevation is 1,400 metres (4,600 ft) above sea level.

Map of Kathmandu

Kathmandu Map

I believe, Kathmandu is a perfect example of living art, history and culture and one can relive the monuments that have been existing from centuries ago. Even though devastating Earthquake in 2015 hit real hard, the life is already normal here. Except few of the culturally and historically significant temples including Durbar squares, everything is alright! And those temples and monuments suffering the destruction are in reconstruction process.

According to the Department of Immigration, Kathmandu welcomed a total of 460,304 foreign tourists in the first six months of 2017 i.e. until June, 2017. The statistics show that the arrival of tourist is way more than what was in 2016 (more than 100 thousand arrivals) in the first halves of both years. And the total figure is expected to hit more than one million by the end of this year.

Since Kathmandu is the capital of Nepal, it is obviously well equipped with infrastructures and services. Kathmandu is the fastest growing city in Nepal. It has witnessed what most parts of the country is yet to observe. Rapid growth of industries, development, economy and what not; but is it really a livable city? Here’s my analysis;

1. Safety & Security

At present, the security of Kathmandu has undoubtedly become stronger than before. The place where I reside used to be renowned for theft, robbery and murder cases around 10 years ago. People used to have hard time walking alone or in group in the streets during evening. But now, the situation has changed; it’s safe to walk alone and the incidents of theft, robbery and murder are rarely heard of. However, I hear the stories of pickpockets quite often. And once, while I was returning back to my home at around 8 PM, my phone was nearly robbed by two youngsters. Luckily I was able to escape it.
And suddenly, in the last few days the rumors of bombings in K-town is at its peak. This is certainly because of upcoming second phase House of representatives and provincial Assembly election to be held on 7th December, 2017. Despite the reasons, the security system is obviously challenged. 

2. Climatic conditions

Kathmandu is blessed with its climatic condition. Normally, the city has warm days and cool evenings and mornings. On good days mainly during the winter and spring, the mountain ranges around Kathmandu Valley are clearly visible from many parts of the city. The annual average temperature is 18.3 degrees Celsius (64.9 degrees Fahrenheit). The Kathmandu Valley has a pleasant climate with average summer and winter temperatures of 19°C – 35°C and 2°C – 12°C respectively. There are 4 seasons: Spring (March to May), Summer (June to August), Autumn (September to November) and Winter (December to February).
Kathmandu Nepal Weather

3. Population

According to a census conducted in 2011, Kathmandu metropolis alone has 2.5 million inhabitants, and the agglomerate has a population of more than 3 million inhabitants. The metropolitan city area has a population density of 3000 per km² and 17000 per km square in city. Today, Kathmandu has witnessed the largest population than anytime before. Because of the rapid population growth rate, urbanization is inevitable which also means the increment of pollution which we all are victims of. The city is home to the Newars – the original inhabitants of Kathmandu. But now, people from different ethnic backgrounds other than Newars including Khas Brahmins and Matwalis have settled here in the city as well meaning overly crowded population.

4. Education

Education in Kathmandu is one of the most important reasons why this city attracts thousands of people each year. After the successful completion of SEE (Previously known as SLC), Kathmandu pulls thousands of youngsters in the pursuit of quality higher education. And without any secondary thought, Kathmandu possesses the best education in Nepal. Like many of you, the story is similar; the reason why I was brought and grown up in this city for educational purpose. There are thousands of schools, colleges, institutes and consultancies in Kathmandu. One need not walk for hours to get to schools, buy books, copies and other necessary stationery materials here.

5. Transportation in Kathmandu

Transportation system in Kathmandu is better than many other cities of Nepal. However, it’s problematic at times. On a daily basis, thousands of commuters have to face problem while traveling be it through private vehicles or by public transport. One has to suffer even more while traveling on a public bus. Most of the times, the vehicles are overcrowded, not well-maintained, lack cleanliness and don’t have proper timings of departures and arrivals. Over-speeding is another issue when it comes to a discussion about transportation in Kathmandu. Thousands of road accidents occur annually. Part of the reason is because of road situation and majority of blame goes to the drivers. The wide Kalanki- Koteshwor road section is under-construction and as per the planning is believed to end by the month of July. The drivers have become more free-er than before and has reported increasing road accidents there. Kalanki- Koteshwor stretch has four lanes and as per the experts lack considerable number of dividers, zebra crossing, traffic lights and overhead bridges. But recently, traffic police have started monitoring the vehicles and during the office hours, vehicles are supposed to register their vehicle number and timings as well. This action is believed to control the increasing number of road accidents. Let’s wish for the best! 🙂

Tragically this city has f****d up road system. The roads are way too muddy during the monsoon and rest of the year; dusty. In the last 10 years, the number of vehicles is supposed to have increased by three times. Traffic jam is prevailing day by day. Once, I was travelling in a public vehicle from my office located in Pulchowk to Jorpati and it took me three and half hours! Holy S**t!!! 3.5 hours just to travel that small distance…. Most of the times, I ride bicycle these days and so I am less victimized  by this problem of traffic jam. But it’s not the same case for thousands of people who need to travel frequently. Guess the problem they’re facing each and every f***ing day! But again the problem for cyclists like me is we don’t have cycling trails. And what infuriates me more is when the govt. officials travel (which is called sawari), hundreds of vehicles are made to wait for hours and their emergencies are totally ignored. Ironic it is when Ambulances are not given preferences and kept to wait during the traffic jams! What a tragic situation!

Problems don’t end here! Even though No-Horn System has been implemented from the Nepali New year- 2074; a lot of drivers don’t care at all and keep honking the horns unnecessarily.  Even during the long traffic jam, people are seen honking horns for no reason. Does the traffic jam end just because he blows horn? It doesn’t. Sometimes I think, these drivers blow horn just to get attention! After all, we all need to be careful about what we do!

The only international airport of Nepal (Tribhuvan International Airport) is situated in Kathmandu. That’s also the reason why Kathmandu has to accommodate tourists for sometime even though they don’t want to :D.

On the brighter side, Govt. has started planning for the construction of Kathmandu Outer Ring road. The ring road will be 71.93 KM long with 8 lanes. And significantly, the cycle lane, green path and disabled friendly paths on both sides of the road will be constructed. Similarly, Sajha Yatayat has begun disabled friendly bus service in Kathmandu starting from March, 2018. Sajha Yatayat has semi-low-floor which runs from Lagankhel- Gangalal hospital through Jawalakhel, Tripureshwor, Bir Hospital, Lainchour, Lazimpat, Kanti Bal Hospital and Chakrapaath. This bus service has also arranged separate seats for children and the total capacity is 41 seats. At the same time, Sajha Transport has planned to add some 24 buses for the very purpose including an electric one. Mayur yatayat is also in operation recently and is providing quality transportation services to the commuters. Public transportation facilities from Sajha Yatayat and Mayur Yatayat have been noteworthy because of its efficiency and cost-effectiveness as well. In addition, syndicate system has been uplifted now. Great steps! Still long way to go 🙂

6. Drinking Water

Even though almost all of the houses in Kathmandu are well equipped with taps; being able to fetch water is a different story. Back home in Sindhupalchowk; we have two private water sources and we share them with villagers. Here, we’re compelled to buy bottled water in the span of every 2-3 days.What an irony!!!

The people of Kathmandu are continually lied about getting access to Melamchi Drinking Water Project for a long time now. According to the latest update, the tunnel digging of the drinking water project is supposed to end by the end of December. Let’s see if we’ve to wait more. Read more about it here. 

7. Loadshedding (Electricity)

Currently Kathmandu is a loadshedding free city! Amazing; isn’t it? All thanks to Nepal Electricity Authority’s Managing Director Kul Man Ghising for eliminating Loadshedding. We all were the sufferers of more than 14-15 hours of loadshedding everyday during the dry season. The everyday lifestyle mainly including the industrial sector was hit real bad during that time. But now we all are blessed for the good deeds from Mr. Kul Man Ghising. Thank you again! 🙂

Pashupatinath, Kathmandu
Illuminating Pashupatinath temple in the evening…

8. Entertainment and recreation

One has diverse options to get entertained here in Kathmandu. Ranging from local tea shops to classy coffee shops and cafes, evening musical aarati in Pashupatinath to late night parties in Thamel, hiking, movies, strolls around the streets, indoor cricket and football (commonly called Futsal), Kathmandu has numerous things to offer. One can also opt doing meditation held in different places of Kathmandu. UNESCO sites; Pashupatinath, Boudhanath, Swayambhunath, Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Lalitpur Durbar Squares are always a good idea to visit. The hilss surrounding Kathmandu Valley are ideal destinations for hiking. Some of the majors ones are Sundarijal, Shivapuri, Chandragiri, Nagarkot, Dhulikhel, Namabuddha, Godawari, Phulchowki, Lakure Bhanjyang, Farping etc. As Kathmandu is commonly known as The City of temples, one can find temples in almost each corner of the streets.

9. Pollution & Waste Management

With the rapid in-flow of population in Kathmandu, pollution is ascending pretty quickly. In Hinduism, the rivers are considered to be holy and are worshiped as well. Regardless of the beliefs there’s no stopping; the rivers are at their worsts. Bagmati despite being the most important river for Hindu people is struggling to find its own beauty! Others include Bishnumati, Dhobi khola, Tukucha Khola, Manohora Khola etc. Similarly, noise pollution because of continuous honking of vehicles.

Another very prevalent and serious issue of Kathmandu is air pollution. Kathmandu ranks 5th in Pollution Index 2017 mid-year as published by the Numbeo.com. Full story here. The effects caused are immeasurable. Once I was returning to Kathmandu from chitwan and the bus I was traveling got some technical problems near Naghdhunga. So, I and my fellow travelers thought it’d be better we walk sometime until Checkpoint and then catch a bus. We walked for sometime and then comes the interesting part. We were literally soaked in dust and I had hard time acknowledging myself looking at the mirror. Sad, isn’t it? But that’s how it is.

A research conducted by the university of the neurons in my brain found out that a person consumes around 20-25 KG of dust during his lifetime. And the consumption is supposedly increased who were born after 20th century. 😀
Air Pollution, Kathmandu
Apart from all the facts and figures, Kathmandu has become a way of life for many people including me. For me Kathmandu is as colorful as it can get. However, Black n white is what dominates here. And Kathmandu is lighted beautifully but the irony is I find even bigger shadows. An open book full of stories but everytime, I try to read them, I get a cold chill in reply. Beautifully wrapped outside and when I open it; it’s disappointing to know what’s inside. People here know exactly how to teach humanity and not follow it. They know exactly where gods reside and still they themselves failing to reach destination. As mentioned in the movie Loot “Kathmandu Sahara Herda Lagchha Rahara…S***a Giddai Gidda Ko Sahara”, it really is significant for me. A sexy mannequin!!!

I was having a conversation with one of my friends’ Saurav KC. When I asked him his opinion about the town, his reply astonished me. Here’s his reply; 

“Kathmandu for me is a valley of dreams. Dreams in the sense that people are the richest and the poorest as well.But nobody has seen that dream city until now; maybe yet to be discovered. Businessmen sell poverty here!!!”

And what do you think? Is Kathmandu a livable city? Do leave your thoughts! Let’s have a discussion. 🙂
About the author

I come from the land of Gurkhas; the brave soldiers who fought tirelessly and didn’t let any countries rule Nepal. Because of those Gorkhalis, the Nepalese are proud to call “Nepal has always been an independent nation so far.” Nepalese Flag is the world’s only non-quadrilateral national flag; red color symbolizing the bravery and blue symbolizes peace and harmony. What a proud thing. Also Nepal was a Hindu Kingdom in the past and now a secular state welcoming people from all the religions. Nepal is a country of living heritages and Kathmandu a city of temples. All in all, Nepal is a country with Unity in Diversity. Thank you for reading the boring random shits. These things don’t relate to me in anyway. And those are not the things that describe me. If I introduce myself with the common voices of any nationality, group or community, it’s nothing but a sheer stupidity. A part of it can be a shared introduction but not fully. So who am I? I don’t know who I am. It’s been years of SEARCH but nothing has been excavated yet. And also, I am not the right person to describe who I am. It's you who know me and whatever I say about me makes no sense. You tell me who I am ;)
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