Like many original cities, Kathmandu in Nepal was formed around the mighty Bagmati river. Flowing down from the very Himalayas, its water was known to be crystal clear. But that was decades ago. Now what remains of Bagmati is neither mighty, nor clear. Despite being revered to as a godly entity by the population of the valley, its present state is pitiful. According to many, it is even too far gone to be rejuvenated, labeling it as a problem too wicked. And this complexity makes it difficult to uproot its source. In fact, rather than a single source, there is a vicious cycle to be blamed. This is more true than ever in the neglected riverscape of Balkhu-Sanchal. A place where I grew up to see the pitiful transformation.
Over the years, the rapid urbanization of the valley has initiated a stream of isolated brown agendas that completely took over the importance of green in the valley. Balkhu-Sanchal being located at the ‘edge’ of the city faces the extreme repercussions from this imbalance. While there is steady growth of environmental and social awareness among people, the negative perception of the Balkhu-Sanchal riverscape has now been set into the mindsets of the population. Previously the riverscapes were seen as the backbone of the valley, a landmark in itself. But now as the city spreads, the dependance of the man to the river has gone down. Hence, its image has been reduced to the backyard of the valley, a discarded edge. Due to this, despite having the awareness for need for change, it is still challenging to revive the memories.
Hence the first step to change is rejuvenating the ‘image’ associated with the river itself, which consequently plays a huge role in forming the ‘environmental psychology’ of the stakeholders. And this is only possible if we approach it through an attempt to merge and evolve the green and brown agendas, instead of getting stuck in their dichotomy. The challenge ahead is to build localized UEP based strategies that are impactful and achievable in the small yet meaningful riverscape of Balkhu-Sanchal