Affordable housing

May 19, 2017
Rapid urbanisation of the country without much careful planning has led to haphazard settlements without proper services, leading to a number of problems.
And to resolve those problems would require much time and expenditure of huge resources and political determination, and handling of resulting frictions and inconveniences in society.
If urbanisation had been guided according to well-drawn out plans and standards, our towns and cities would have become beautiful; all kinds of services required in urban areas would run smoothly; people would not be subjected to shortages and inconveniences; and scarce land would be properly utilised without destroying much of the fertile land in the country for building because land would be separated depending on its quality and suitability for agricultural, housing and other purposes.
It is now increasingly being realised that towns should be developed according to a proper plan and those towns and cities which have already developed haphazardly need whatever improvements can be made to them at this later stage. This is good. Some of our towns are dotted with slum areas with small shanties especially in public lands, which has led to several problems, including pollution, ugliness.
In this context, the idea of providing adequate affordable housing seeks to address these problems. A recently published government report stresses ‘inclusive cities and resilient communities’.
The Constitution of Nepal recognises the right to housing as one of the important rights of every citizen. In order to pursue a proper housing policy, integration of the policies of all sectors of the government and good coordination between the government agencies are required.
For example, in the capital valley there are a number of slum areas, and managing them properly and resettling them in better shelters are quite a challenge. The government could see to the construction of well-designed houses where such people could be accommodated, charging them relatively low rates for services they need there and for the use of land and buildings.
The report recommends that housing policies should promote equity and therefore end discrimination, forced evictions, and take care of the needs of the homeless and people in vulnerable situations.
The government should proceed more quickly. There are several alternative housing options, regarding ownership, rental or tenure, including cooperatives solutions. An unduly long time should not be spent on negotiating through these various options, leaving the idea in bureaucratic red tape.
Legal provisions and regulations may need to be amended relating to planning, building code, standards, development permits, land use, which should ensure quality and habitability. Such housing options should be open to other citizens as well. The New Urban Agenda focuses on promoting national and local housing policies.
With the election of people’s representatives to local levels, which have wider powers than ever before, this idea should receive further impetus. But such resettlement plans should at the same time close the gaps through which public land, such as river banks, are invaded, leaving the problems as they were before.
Modern democracies around the world have switched to Electric Voting Machines (EVM) or paperless election. Such practice has been quite common even in developing countries, including India, where the literacy rate is more or less the same as in Nepal.
But Nepal is still following the traditional method of ballot papers and ballot boxes causing counting of votes to be difficult and time consuming. EVM was used in some constituencies, Kathmandu-1 for example, in the first CA poll as a pilot project. But the idea of using EVM was dropped due to reasons not known to the public.
Had the EVM been used during the first phase of local level election not a single vote would have gone invalid.
Many people complained about the huge size of ballot papers. They were too large to handle, and it was difficult to identify the symbols on which they wanted to put their stamp.
At the same time, the Election Commission also did little to launch voter education. Learning lessons from this election the EC must switch to the EVM for the provincial and parliamentary elections.
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The Himalayan Times, May 19, 2017

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