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High-rise hazard in Capital

High-rise is not the only solution to scarcity of land in the valley

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Land is a matter of pride, culture and heritage for agrarian people. Besides a source of subsistence, land for them is a cultural space and ritually connects them from womb to tomb. However, today land is shrinking giving birth to rapid urbanisation increasing the number of high-rises. Urbanisation, though it does provide economic sustenance, detaches them from their cultural ties and their land converts into commodity. Therefore, arises the question — is high-rise a good and only answer to shrinking land? Experts say it might be an alternative depending upon the feasibility and usage. This depends on whether the resources and infrastructures are developed to meet the demands of the increasing population or not. Considering the physical condition of the soil in the Valley and lack of sufficient infrastructure and resources questions the ingenuity of high-rises in the Valley.

Suresh Dhakal, an anthropologist and land use expert, says, “High-rises are not only related to availability and unavailability of land, the lack of proper land use planning and excessive greed of land agents are directly related to the haphazard highrise development in the Valley.” He says the settlements in the Valley especially the traditional one are already congested, this is not only because of encroachment, but he says, “In regards to the Valley, we have to look at the core city areas and periphery differently. In traditional settlements, there were sufficient public spaces of course but there were not sufficient open spaces for road and other infrastructures that developed later.”

Proper land use planning is important and it helps in shifting the growing density of population to other cities. He adds, “High-rises is okay if other facilities support this. Resources like water and infrastructures like public spaces and transportation is starkly inefficient to the existing population — planning to accommodate more through high-rises is not a sane idea in case of Kathmandu Valley.”

Biresh Shah, an architect and urban designer, takes land scarcity as an abstract idea difficult to define. “Land is shrinking because everyone wants to live in Kathmandu,” he explains. He comes from the school of thought that believes that high-rise is not the solution to shrinking land problem or over population. He says, “This problem can be addressed better if we focus on developing other cities and decentralise. Other major cities should have the same facilities as the Capital so that the people move in to to these cities. This way the population can be diverted to other cities as well.” In terms of alternatives, he says, “High-rise can accommodate more people but the resources and infrastructure cannot support more people than what the Valley is currently accommodating.”

Sagarkrishna Joshi, a structural engineer, wonders, “If there is the scarcity of land, then high rise might be a solution in general. But, is there genuinely land scarcity in the Valley?” He explains, “Even if we go for high-rises, we should consider how feasible it is. The physical condition of the soil in the Valley is not suitable for highrise structures. He adds, “There should not be high-rises within already developed residential area; and high-rises should not be allowed in the core areas especially within Ring Road.”

Regarding the alternatives, he agrees with Shah and Dhakal. He says, “If we continue encouraging the population to concentrate within the Valley, highrises won’t help in the long run.” He further says, “Proper zoning is important; satellite cities should be developed and infrastructure especially transportation should be developed so that people will willingly settle outside the Valley.”

Rabindra Puri, a conservationist, says, “The problem is not with the scarcity of land but with vision and planning. Population density is already high and allowing high-rises will be pushing the Valley to its limit. Developing other cities would be the right solution instead of building high-rises.”

source: the himalayan times, 6 jan 2018


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