Tourists 'covering mouths and noses' as Kathmandu chokes on garbage

·Environment Editor
·3-min read

Tourists are forced to cover their noses to shield themselves from the stench seeping from large piles of garbage on the streets of Nepal.

Kathmandu’s UNESCO-heritage-listed Durbar Square is just one of many sites around the city littered with trash.

“I wish I had my phone with me, I came across a massive pile of rubbish, very big,” one British tourist told Reuters.

Garbage is piling up on the streets of Kathmandu causing a serious stench. Source: Reuters
Garbage is piling up on the streets of Kathmandu causing a serious stench. Source: Reuters

For weeks, the problem has been steadily growing, upsetting both locals and visitors to the region.

Local man Bhim Bahadur Lama complained people have started falling ill from the unsanitary situation.

Another resident Maitali Sunuwar said the issue creates problems for visitors entering the city.

“Tourists are walking past the trash covering their mouths and noses,” he said.

“We have to spit as we walk and the neighbourhood is filled with garbage. This is very bad."

UNESCO listed Bashantapur Durbar Square has been flooded with trash. Source: Reuters
UNESCO listed Bashantapur Durbar Square has been flooded with trash. Source: Reuters

‘Almost unbearable’ Kathmandu suffering reputational damage

Originally from Kathmandu, University of NSW Associate Professor Krishna Shrestha specialises in environmental justice in the region.

He argues there has been a “systemic failure” to solve waste management issues in the city for decades.

Residents have traditionally tied their garbage up in plastic bags and dumped it on the street, creating a stench.

Waste has been dumped at sites outside of Kathmandu and locals have had enough. Source: Reuters
Waste has been dumped at sites outside of Kathmandu and locals have had enough. Source: Reuters

“It is a reputational issue for Kathmandu, and it has become quite embarrassing,” he told Yahoo News Australia.

“The city has made so many gains in the last 10 years internationally, but there’s rubbish everywhere.

“It’s in front of houses, in the street, people are telling me that it's almost unbearable.”

Why is Kathmandu filled with so much rubbish?

Dump trucks attempting to carry waste out of Kathmandu are being blocked by protesters angry at the construction of the Banchare Danda landfill project in 2019.

Locals living near the site escalated their action in June, cutting down trees to block roads, and pelting police, who are escorting the dump trucks, with stones.

Protesters have felled trees to block garbage trucks from entering their town. Source: Reuters
Protesters have felled trees to block garbage trucks from entering their town. Source: Reuters
Truck drivers queue for a police escort before entering the waste management site. Source: Reuters
Truck drivers queue for a police escort before entering the waste management site. Source: Reuters

Protesters say they want to be relocated at least two kilometres away from the waste management site.

Assoc Prof Shrestha believes the surprise result of a recent mayoral election has emboldened those who don’t want the waste dumped in their backyard.

Independent candidate Balendra Shah, a popular rapper and structural engineer, had campaigned with a promise to manage the garbage problem in a more inclusive and sustainable way.

Previously suppressed by the major political parties, locals had been “suffering” quietly, but are now backed by regional political factions who see a pathway to pressure the city into changing its ways.

"Waste management has become a political problem, like elsewhere around the world, with deep environmental justice implications," Assoc Prof Shrestha said.

With Reuters

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