Lumbini Province, location of the birthplace of the Buddha, has allotted Rs20 million for statues of the Kanakamuni and Krikumuni avatars of the Buddhas in Kapilvastu.
Sudur Paschim Province may lag behind the rest of the country in terms of development indicators, but when it comes to building view-towers it is right up there with the others. It has set aside Rs2.5 billion for a view-tower atop Kampasedhura peak in Kailali.
The list of view-towers under construction is long — there is an Rs5 billion tower coming up in Chandragiri and another Rs9 billion project in Rupandehi’s Tilottama.
Municipalities that cannot build view-towers are putting up grandiose structures and high rises in the last remaining open spaces.
Kathmandu Metropolitan City is building a 29-floor high rise at a cost of Rs5 billion near Tundikhel that is already an eyesore and will be a white elephant. Not to be outdone, Biratnagar is putting up its own high rise at a cost of Rs4 billion.
The only people who benefit from this wasteful spending are cement companies, and contractors. The people who need basic services like health, education, jobs and a clean living environment get nothing.
Federalism was supposed to inject more accountability — at least at the local level. The opposite seems to have happened in the past five years. National parties that control local governments and their budgets appear to be driven by the same greed and misplaced priorities as the national government.
Politicians seem unwilling or unable to buck the trend. It could be because view-towers are easy to build, posts can be padded and accord a lot of opportunity for hidden over-invoicing, and the political party gets to show voters it is committed to ‘development’.
Read also: Nepal’s ‘war tourism’ is a scam, Mahesh Neupane
Many environmentalists and even engineers have pointed out that Nepal’s high mountains are already so high that they serve as view-towers. Adding an extra few metres on them is illogical and adds nothing to the panorama. They say that if it is the vista that the planners want, viewing platforms would be more appropriate.
“Compared to multi-propose projects that can help increase economic activities for the locals, building a view-tower is economically wasteful and an obsolete idea,” says Krishna Prasad Sapkota, former District Development Committee chair of Kavre.
This does not deter politicians. The view-tower building spree seems unstoppable. Kaski, Nagarkot and Bandipur are building towers as we speak. Inspired by the Great Wall of China, Helambu Rural Municipality is constructing a 60km stone trail, dubbed ‘the Helambu Great Trail’.
Chair Nima Galgen Sherpa boasts that his pet project will cost Rs3 billion, and will “attract tourists” to his district north of Kathmandu.
All these view-towers have one thing in common: they are of no help to the local people — they serve no purpose, economic or otherwise. There is no business plan or an analysis of return on investment.
Udaypur’s Lumchungbung Municipality has prepared a project report for an Everest View Tower on a hilltop from which the world’s highest mountain is sometimes visible through the clouds and haze.
How will this Rs90 million view-tower benefit the municipality’s 12,000 population? How will it or other view-towers in any way ensure better governance or improve the living standard of people?
“The government’s priority should be on skills development, enterprise, education and health,” says former secretary of Local Development, Khemraj Nepal. “But all three levels of government are straying away from their responsibility towards the people.”
The priority of the representatives we elected to power should be improving health posts, community schools, food security and sanitation, he says. These are necessities, and view-towers are an extravagance and a waste of time and taxpayer money.
Read also: Infrastructure for wildlife in Nepal, Biraj Shrestha and Pramod Neupane
Adapted from the Nepali original at himalkhabar.com by Aria Parasai