Challenges of Inclusive Urbanization in the Face of Political Transition in Nepal

Challenges of Inclusive Urbanization in the Face of Political Transition in Nepal

Kamal Devkota (Southasia Institute of Advanced Studies, Nepal)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-4165-3.ch009

Abstract

Nepal is one of the rapidly urbanizing countries in south Asia. This trend of rapid urbanization and ongoing political change has created several challenges to the planned urban development in Nepal. This chapter presents a picture of urban development and growth in Nepal and identifies key challenges why the existing model of urbanization has not delivered results that are commonly expected through urban transformation. Unclear and inconsistent policy regime, poor municipal services, urban disaster risk and environmental vulnerability, managing the politics of slum, and transforming informal economy are the five key urban challenges for the inclusive urbanization that are discussed in this chapter. The chapter concludes with brief recommendations for each challenge.
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Urban Growth In Nepal

Nepal has a predominantly agrarian economy and rural socio-cultural outlook, and has historically a little experience in rational organization of human settlement and economic activities. The very idea that the government is to support people on a regular basis through social security or health, education or environmental services or in times of need, such as through medical aid and disaster response is relatively new. The various political experiments—authoritarian rules until 1950, and both regimented polity and liberal democracies after that, has so far created a state that is yet to command popular legitimacy by responding to the needs of rural and urban population. The country remained in self-imposed seclusion from outside world until 1951, and the formal “development planning” that came with the promulgation of periodic development plans from 1956 conceived of relocating and rearranging settlements especially in the country’s Tarai region1. This region, once being a flat, fertile area with dense forest, was long seen as a prospective site for agriculture expansion and human settlement. At the same time, it provided incentive for the rulers to benefit from timber trade and secure their own political ascendency by favoring a certain group of people by providing free land. The significant growth of towns in Tarai can thus be traced to the high migration rate from hill to Tarai after the malaria was eradicated and the east-west high way was constructed in southern Nepal. In the past, Rajbiraj was planned in classical Prastara form after Hanuman Nagar was swept by the flood in Koshi river in eastern Nepal. In the far-western Nepal, the town of Tikapur was planned following a Grid Iron Pattern. After these twin efforts, however, the city planning exercise came to a virtual standstill in Nepal. These initial advances in settlements in the otherwise densely forested Tarai paved the way for town development in the region, while in the Hills, the valleys of Kathmandu and Pokhara saw an increasing influx of new inhabitants, especially as monetary income and savings increased with the opening up of Nepal and its development in the post-1950 period.

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