“We want at least 80% of the people here to have comprehensive health insurance, and if we can achieve that within a decade, people here won’t have to pay for medical treatment ever again,” Shrestha told Nepali Times.
Thimi was recently hit by unprecedented floods after the Hanumante River burst its banks and inundated residences and shops. Unlike other politicians in Nepal, Mayor Shrestha was quick off the mark, personally accompanying rescue teams with heavy equipment to take people to safety.
“This is the best mayor we have ever had,” local resident Sudin Bajracharya said.
When the mayor found out that the real reason for the floods was not heavy rain but poor draining and haphazard construction along the floodplain of the river, he allocated Rs80 million to unblock and maintain the drainage system and Rs70 million to fix the roads.
Shrestha says he is a firm believer that development does not mean destroying the tangible and intangible heritage of his historic town. Thimi had many ponds that used to recharge ground water, and served as the focal point for many festivals. Many had been converted into basketball courts or parking lots.
Under Mayor Shrestha, the Bishnu Kundal, Bhulakhel and Kamal Pokhari are ponds again, and this week, children were diving into the water to swim. The Municipality is also helping revive dance rituals like the Mahakali Nach, Mayur Nach, Salancha Nach.
Shrestha is working to streamline the taxation system, making it more scientific and practical than before. Property tax is now included with land and housing tax so people do not have to pay separately, and end up paying less. Other Municipality fees are nominal, and the Mayor is strict about not allowing middlemen to cheat earthquake survivors on their registrations.
Shrestha’s popularity was already high, but it has become higher as they see their mayor among them, trying to make the city more convenient for its citizens. In fact, when some assailants attacked him on the Araniko Highway last year, people spontaneously came to his aid and put the attackers behind bars.
Currently, Mayor Shrestha is working with engineers to develop a plan on ‘tactical urbanism’ in Thimi. This involves many low-cost interventions to the infrastructure to make the roads safer, including making roads more bicycle friendly and adding sidewalks.
Only if the mayor of Kathmandu and Lalitpur would take a few tips from Thimi.