Nepalese authorities recently called out security forces to help clear the garbage from Kathmandu after protesters blocked access to landfills accusing authorities of ignoring health concerns of residents living near the stinking mountains of trash.
Rubbish littered Kathmandu’s Durbar Square for weeks as residents of nearby villages pushed back municipal trucks ferrying garbage from the capital city of 1.4 million people.
“It had been a nightmare walking through rubbish to fetch children from school, do the groceries and run other daily chores,” said Laxmi Sarma.
The disruption coincided with the annual climbing season when world-class mountaineers, trekkers and campers from the west converge during spring for outdoor adventure.
Video clips showed Europeans hopping gingerly through ankle-deep muck that at places almost covered the entire stretch of the road.
Hoteliers feared the stink and the sight of litter could hurt tourism which accounts for three percent of Nepal’s GDP but economists say the figure at good times topped 11 percent of its 31-billion-euro economy.
Troops in action
“We were pretty happy when the forces were called out because our city was turning into a garbage dump,” said a Kathmandu restaurateur.
TV footage showed armed personnel in full riot gear escorting Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) trucks to a landfill in Banchare Danda village. At places clashes also occurred between villages and security forces.
Other hamlets had teamed up with the residents of Banchare Danda to stiffen the resistance but the seven-week disruptions finally eased this month following a hasty truce.
KMC chiefs promised to turn landfills into a “smell-free zone” within a month and offered to cart waste without spilling slime on narrow village paths.
But some protesters insisted their demands had not been met fully.
“All we want is our homes to be relocated two or three kilometres away from the landfills,” a member of the Banchara Danda Waste Management Struggle Committee said.
“People as well as our livestock are becoming ill,” he added in Banchara Danda, located near another dumping zone set up in 2005 in the village of Sisdole, 27 kilometres from Kathmandu.
Some 1,200 families living around the two sites say the volume of dumped garbage has grown.
Last month, Kathmandu Post newspaper reported 15 cancer-related deaths in the region and said every day 40 residents visit health clinics with medical complaints.
In Kathmandu, a picturesque city in the Himalayan valley, doorstep garbage collection was also disrupted, which prompted some to dump trash on public streets after sundown.
A KMC spokesman Basanta Acharya warned city authorities would crack down and impose hefty fines on litterbugs beginning 17 July.
Aditya Bhandari, an engineer from Kathmandu, said he was prepared to obey state rules provided municipal trucks picked up home waste on time in the city and from its suburbs, which daily produces 1,200 tons of trash.
“We have been segregating garbage but organic waste is hard to keep in the house for long,” Bhandari added.