By Gopal Sharma
KATHMANDU (Reuters) – British tourist Richard McSorley walked past a stinking heap of garbage in Nepal’s capital Kathmandu on Thursday, reminiscing the much cleaner temple-studded city he had visited decades ago for the first time.
“If I was a new tourist I would be disgusted,” the 48-year-old told Reuters, pointing to a pile of trash by the side of a street in Kathmandu, where the government is keen to draw more tourists after the country’s cash-strapped economy was battered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
For weeks, proper disposal of waste has become a chronic problem in the hill-ringed city after attempts to dump garbage in a small landfill site at a village outside Kathmandu was met with resistance from local residents.
Biswas Dhungana, a protester at the dumping site in Bancharedanda, said villagers would not allow trucks loaded with trash to enter, alleging authorities had done little to provide infrastructure and manage garbage.
“We have been forced to live like pigs in yucky conditions for several years as the government has not done anything to keep the village clean,” Dhungana told Reuters.
On Wednesday, hundreds of villagers including women and children erected a barrier of rocks on the road to Bancharedanda and forced about 200 trucks laden with Kathmandu’s garbage to return without dumping their load.
The protesters pelted stones from hill tops injuring three police personnel, who fired tear gas shells to break up the protests, three witnesses said.
Sunil Lamsal, an official overseeing the handling of the Kathmandu’s trash, said he was working to address the concerns raised by Bancharedanda residents as soon as possible.
“We are coordinating with the protesters and will invite them for talks to resolve the problem,” Lamsal said.
But the trash piles on Kathmandu’s streets are steadily growing, adding to the angst of residents.
“I am fed up with the authorities who can’t even keep the city clean,” Kathmandu resident Laloo Magar said. “It is a shame… a disgrace.”
(Reporting by Gopal Sharma, Editing by Devjyot Ghoshal and Michael Perry)