Towards Revitalizing Bagmati River - Exploring Urban Transformations and its Implication to Bagmati River, its Adjoining Urban Areas in Shankhamul and People
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Bagmati River has been always revered by the Kathmandu valley dwellers since unknown time as symbol of purity and life-giving mother. This culture of reverence also resembles the socio-ecological relationship between city dwellers and the river. In recent few decades, unprecedented transformations have taken place in urban context. The wave of urbanization bulldozed traditional character of the city layout as well as vastly altered the cultural values based on socio-ecological relations. In addition, the inability of authorities to manage these changes resulted in a process of successive degradation of the river and urban environment of the city. This M. Sc. Thesis intends to contribute towards revitalization of the Bagmati River by exploring the problems and the potentials of cultural sites along the river in the backdrop of urban transformation and restructuring. Focusing at Shankhamul area (of about 40 hectare), a fieldwork has been conducted in Fall 2010. The thesis report is presented in 8 chapters. Chapter 1: 'Introduction' that explains background and importance of the study; research objectives and questions; and scope of research. Chapter 2: 'Methodology', which describes theoretical basis for the method, method implemented etc. Chapter 3: 'Review of Theories', which reviews different theories such as urbanization, culture, territorialism, political ecology and place belongingness so as to get insights that how previous theories have addressed the relationships of culture, ecology and urban development. Chapter 4: 'Context' describes general significances of the place introducing the urbanization trends and local traditional urban cultures and knowledge of Kathmandu Valley, Chapter 5: 'Case Presentation' where the fieldwork data are presented in analytical framework. This leads to findings that are presented in Chapter 6. Chapter 7 recommends the strategies responding to the alarming problems and considering the strengths of the place. Chapter 8 is the conclusion of the research work, which summarizes findings and recommendations revisiting the theories. For this research, Shankhamul has been chosen as the case study area as a representative cultural site among the dozens of such along the Bagmati River. These sites have been traditionally functioning as meeting point of people and the river. Recently, due to tremendous urban changes these connections are affected. Referring to the theories as mentioned in chapter 3, all of them unanimously suggest the notion that the local specificity (culture, geography etc.) must be respected and responded in development thinking in contrary to the homogenization principles. Cultural and territorial approach sees the local culture as the ripened local knowledge to cope with nature and changes. For sustainable development this knowledge has to be treated as asset integrating with modern scientific knowledge. The research has been conducted aligned with this theoretical framework. All the fieldwork, data analysis has come to conclude into the following research findings, which answer the research question and its embedded questions: Reviewing the nature of transformations in the case area and the macro context, I came to conclude that serious place decline and inability of authorities to manage the situation is a major problem of the case. • This research has explored different stakeholders; nature of their connectedness with the place; and cold-shoulders between different groups. • It also reviewed the abundance of the local knowledge and culture related to Bagmati River, waste management and urban culture, which are still extant but in the process of extinction. • Four distinct patterns of urban development such as cultural sites, self-grown urban area, squatter's settlements and public land pooling area were identified, which holds diverse issues signifying the complexity of the place. • The cultural sites like Shankhamul are endowed with different potentials, which must be respected and utilized in envisioning revitalization of Bagmati River. Lastly, some strategies for revitalizing Shankhamul area are proposed responding to the most prominent issues found out by this research such as: river degradation, social and administrative 'forgetting', trend of devitalization of places. These recommendations emphasize the imperatives for shifting development thinking from conventional to the new thinking considering culture as resource. Moreover, it allies with the ideological basis that emphasizes to respond to the realistic local problems through thorough understanding of the social and cultural process, avoiding overly reliance on the technocratic solutions and respecting the local culture and knowledge as assets.