On 10th June, 2022, after almost two months of disrupted solid waste transfer to Sisdole and Banchare Dada landfill sites, newly elected mayor of Kathmandu Metropolitan City Balendra Shah (Balen) was able to forge an agreement which kept the concerns of affected communities at the forefront. Locals allowed passage of waste from Teku Transfer Station from the next day.

This was the sixth time locals from Banchare Dada and Sisdole had protested against the government, their demands being better management of waste, roadways infrastructure improvement amidst others.

On 20th July, 2022, upon the advice of the Department of Urban Development and Building Construction, Ministry of Urban Development, Kathmandu Metropolitan City said due to urgent roadway repairs, waste would not be collected for a week. KMC asked residents to manage waste within their  households during the period. However, due to lack of completion of road repair work, waste transfer continues to be obstructed. Piles of garbage have been collecting in Kathmandu Valley since.

Uncollected waste in Lalitpur District. (Image: Trisha Dhakal / Aawaaj News)

Repair work was completed two weeks ago, however Sisdole and Banchare Dada residents yet again began obstructions, and worse, announced a permanent ban on dumping waste at the Bancharedada landfill site from August 17, 2022.

On Monday, 8th August, after the government dumped 40 trucks of solid waste by force, on the same night, unknown people vandalised several vehicles at the dumping site. On Wednesday, 11th August, when two journalists Abhishek Maharjan and Skanda Gautam made their way to the landfill site, they found garbage strewn along the path to the Banchara Dada landfill site from Sisdole dumping site, making Banchare Dada inaccessible for vehicles. Abhishek Maharjan is of the view that locals perhaps scattered the waste to prevent garbage trucks from reaching Banchare Dada, a view which was refuted by Ram Hari Ghimire, a local activist.

Solid waste from Kathmandu Valley is seen strewn along the road to Banchare Dada Landfill Site. (Image: Skanda Gautam / Supplied)

Balen’s success will be our success: Ram Hari Ghimire 

Speaking to Ram Hari Ghimire, a local activist from Sisdole, he is of the view that it is unfortunate newly elected Mayor Balendra Shah (Balen) has had to face the brunt of waste management. “However, this is not a 2022 problem, it is an 18 year old problem which has been overlooked time and again”.

When asked why pressure was being increased at this conjencture of time, and of the circulating rumours that the protests are a tool to undermine Balen, an independent candidate, he said the reason why protests are intensifying is because the government is moving all its attention towards Banchara Dada, completely ignoring concerns of Sisdole in the process.

“The landfill site at Sisdole was supposed to be a temporary site, however it was used to dump 17 years of solid waste from Kathmandu. Now, the government has begun dumping waste at Banchare Dada, and concerns of Sisdole are being ignored, we fear. Similarly, another reason is that ‘leachate’ is not being treated, and that pools of leachate at Banchare Dada, compounded with monsoon rains is emitting a foul stench which has made the air around us unbreathable”, Ghimire states. “We are not against Balen, we are actually grateful to him for prioritising waste management – his success will be our success”, he adds.

Similarly, there are also demands from locals of Banchare Dada that the government should acquire more land around the Banchare Dada landfill site, therefore seek compensation of the same land. This again, lies beyond the jurisdiction of Kathmandu Metropolitan City, or any other local government, and requires an intervention from the federal government.

The government was supposed to prepare an Environmental Impact Report, however, any work on this yet to begin.

Meanwhile, with ongoing protests, and lack of attention by the federal government, Kathmandu’s waste problem seems like is going to be around for a while. Altogether 15 lawmakers represent various constituencies within Kathmandu Valley, which is immediately affecting their residents – with federal elections coming soon, public can demand better attention to waste management on a federal level.