Policy and Practice of Urban Planning in Nepal: A Case of Public Community Participation

Govind Prashad Dhakal's picture
Modern urban planning practices began in Nepal after 1950, when the country was freed from the clutches of the age-old feudocracy of the Ranas. The initiative for urban planning practices were undertaken with the support of the United Nations when it, under the request of the Government of Nepal, sent three people to sketch the urban policy, urban planning and urban rules and regulations. Since then, Nepal passed through different policies and planning phases for urban development, the planning of urban areas has remained one of the low key areas till date. As a result, unplanned growth of the major cities of Nepal with haphazardly built urban infrastructures having negative consequences on urban environment can be seen in the form of clumsiness, crowding and congestion, absence of security measures and lack of neighborhood continuum. In the absence of the government’s visionary intervention with an integrated plan for urban land management and development has now created difficulties in making cities well circulated and livable. To overcome this sorry state, the government, from the 10th five year plan, has begun a policy and plan for land development with the concept of site and service and land pooling system with the partnership of the land owners so that the city’s bad shape could be changed to a minimum functional city specifically for Kathmandu Valley. Under this policy plan, the government, under the banner of Town Development Committees has been engaged in planning for better urban areas. Some projects have already been completed and some more are gaining ground. So, this paper aims to examine the urban policy initiations by the government of Nepal and their implications in urban planning, and has taken a case to see how the present practice of urban planning under the strategy of community (land owners) participation is continuing. Today, the question is how to resolve the conflict that arises from the public consumer participation and what major implications of such practices would be in reform and management of urban areas. Basically, the paper has been based on the secondary sources of information, however, some discussion with officials and the stakeholders have also been undertaken so as to understand the problems and their effect on planning. To chop a tree quickly, spend twice the time sharpening your axe. Chinese proverb
Main Article: 

1. Introduction

It is well-known that the Kathmandu Valley towns and other urban areas of Nepal are facing planning problems coupled with environmental and management problems. These are commonly seen in the form of water logging during the monsoon, traffic jams and pollution in major parts of the valley- Kalanki, Balkhu, Gangabu, Narayangopal Chowk, Chabahil, Gaushala, New and Old Baneswor, Putali Sadak, Jamal, Thapathali, Tripureswor to Kalimati areas just to name for few.  Whatever infrastructure services are available in Kathmandu Valley are either very sub-standard or not functioning at all. Problems of roads, drains, sewerage, lighting, distribution of drinking water are very widespread and the residents of the Valley have become accustomed to these issues of very sub-standard services. Though the government in the past had given much emphasis to urban planning and urban management in the Valley with the support of the donor agencies, however, majority of them have remained merely as beautiful reports, with little implementation. However, in recent days, the government has opted to launch urban planning practices in the form of land pooling, where community participation as consumers in the planning and the development of the land into modern housing is adopted.

History of Urban Planning and Nepal

Planning decisions are political by nature and have basically four types- traditional, democratic, equity (hybrid of socialist and democratic) and incremental (Gann, 1968). Traditional planners are accused of imposing their version in planning whereas the democratic planners call for top down to a participatory planning process. Modern urban planning practice is found to have actually begun when the First World War gave a death blow to laissez faire (Sutcliffe, 1980, 2-3), however, it received a new stimulus after the Second World War. The planning was supported by passing the general planning legislations with an example of British Town and Country Planning Legislation 1909 which is perhaps the best known example. Nepal followed the suit only in 1976 by creating a separate planning and urban development authority as Kathmandu Valley Town Development Committee, which is now converted into Kathmandu Valley Town Development Authority under the Kathmandu Valley Development Authority Act 1988 similar to that of Delhi Development Authority. To give full momentum to the development of urban areas, the government in 1988 created a separate ministry- Ministry of Housing and Physical Planning (now Ministry of Physical Planning and Works). Now this authority is headed by the former mayor of Kathmandu Municipal Corporation (KMC). This is how Nepal in line with the international practices pursued the planning practices institutionally.

General Objectives of Development Plans

Development plans are the broader components of the urban planning. In the context of development planning, urban planning occupies a small place. In recent years, massive migration from rural to urban areas has made the job of urban planning not only aesthetic and modernizing but has become a part of social welfare. The development plan generally covers the following component in this text:

  • Increase the overall rate of investment
  • Carry out special investment to break bottlenecks in agricultural production
  • Improve coordination among different parts of economy
  • Embraces public as well as private and NGOs
  • National plan is coupled with sectoral and local plans as envisaged by the decentralization and principle of subsidiary.

This paper focuses on how the private sector as consumer is being used in the urban planning practices and whether this practice is successful in implementing the concept of decentralized planning for urban areas.

A government may create plans and attempts to implement them but it can never be assured of their being carried out (Fainstein, S. and Norman Fainstein, 1996, 281). Though land is key to urban planning and management, its supply is scarce and its cost is very high. Urban land use pattern is important to modern cities but it is really impossible where the settlement is already developed without any plan. Without proper urban land use pattern, the planners and urban managers would find it difficult to implement the urban policies and plans in the desired way. The urban land use pattern not only determines the settlement patterns but also determines the quality of services to be provided to the residents which impacts living and working conditions of the urbanites (Dhakal, 1995, 87). Land availability and its utilization, therefore, are vital for urban planning and urban development though costly and scare. In the participatory planning, it is believed, that the issue of cost of urban land and non-availability can be minimized to some extent when the land owners as consumer participate in planning their land,

Importance of Participatory Planning

Participation is the mental and emotional involvement of people in group situations that encourages them to contribute to group goals and share responsibility for them. That participation regards people as adults and, hence, people also will respond as adults is the basic philosophical response of the participatory planning with the communities. The public participation in decision making, implementation, monitoring and evaluation, and benefit sharing of urban planning is well taken by the public itself. Goal, it is believed, will be achieved only after the meaningful participation of public with their involvement from the low level to the decision-making level. Participatory planning also encourages planning to be socially adaptable, culturally acceptable and environmentally viable. Without question, it imparts a sense of ownership and control, management and skill transfer, monitoring and evaluation and follow-up and maintenance capability to people, which is exactly what decentralization planning process expects.

Generally, public participation seeks and facilitates the involvement of those potentially affected by or interested in a decision. The principle of public participation holds that those who are affected by a decision have a right to be involved in the decision-making process. Public participation implies that the public's contribution will influence the decision.

Objective of Participatory Planning

The objective of participatory planning is to create a platform for learning rather than plunging directly into problem solving. The process is expected to enhance (Joshi, 2008, KVTDC, 2012) as follows:

  • Identification of the felt needs of the people and bringing forth consensus among them.
  • Empowerment of local disadvantaged groups
  • Integration of local knowledge system into project design
  • Two-way learning process between the project and local people

Legal and Institutional Bases of Planning in Nepal

The initiation of planning was first begun in Nepal after the establishment of democratic polity in Nepal. The first such institution- Upatyaka Nirman Samiti (Valley Construction Committee) - was a five-member committee formed in 1952 with the mandate of preparing a planned urban development of the main centers of the Kathmandu Valley. However, a conflict between the committee and the Road and Building Department ultimately led to the demise of the committee. This committee was replaced by a small town planning unit, established under the Department of Public Works and Building under UN assistance.

Owing to the dearth of human resources in the field of urban planning, the government had decided to get technical assistance from the UN. P. O. Lefvert (1962-64), F. Ortner (1965-66) and Carl Pruscha (HMG/N 1969) helped prepare the first kind of master plan for Nepal, in 1969, covering a number of aspects of planning and conservation expecting to be completed within 20 to 30 years period. This plan was really extensive though the government did not accept it (Dhakal, 1995). This was followed by another plan in 1976 known as the Kathmandu Valley Physical Development Plan, which was adopted as policy document for the development of the urban areas of the Kathmandu Valley. This plan had a number of sub-plans, such as urban design, residential development, zoning, infrastructure development, building regulations for central core areas etc. Unfortunately, this plan also remained in the file and the course of urbanization went on unabated without any guidance, thus, leaving the Kathmandu Valley in the natural process of development. However, some achievements like vegetable market, residential areas in Dallu, Kuleshswor, and Galfutar were made (KVTDC, 1984). With the support of the USAID in 1986, the government again prepared a study report as Kathmandu Valley Urban policy The study also suggested having land use plan participating with the concerned stake holders in urban land management (see Planning and Development Collaborative-PADCO). Even the planning interest of urban areas was shown in the regional planning of Nepal (Gurung, 1969)

Planned Policies and Strategies in Nepal

During the first five year plan (1956-60), Nepal did not have basic infrastructure services so attention was paid to supply drinking water, networking of roads and other infrastructures. In the second five year plan (1963-65), some major roads like Kathmandu-Dakshinkali, Kathmandu-Bauddhanath and Kathmandu-Bhaktapur roads were constructed however, no concrete work like urban development management were done. Even in the third plan (1965-70), the concentration was basically on basic services like drinking water supply and solid waste disposal. However, the government proposed to run "site and service" program to build around 400 houses to be sold to the government servants in the Kuleshor area of Kathmandu, which was initially planned to be built in Kalimati area. This project was completed much later.  In the fifth plan also, there was little effort for the integrated development of Kathmandu and elsewhere in Nepal. The focus was on the regional development plan. During this plan, the government declared five development regions viz. Eastern Development Region, Central Development Region, Western Development Region, Mid-western Development Region and Far Development Region. In the fourth plan, there were only four development region and in the fifth the Midwestern Development region was added for the faster development of the country. In the sixth plan, the government, with the assistance of famous architect Kantz Tange, prepared a master plan for the development of Lumbini. It was realized that the growing population of the urban areas in Nepal would pose a threat to the systematic development of the cities, so planning the cities in accordance with population growth was realized. In the seventh plan, the government decided to collect detailed information of the urban areas so that the cities could be developed into living places. The plans emphasized on the local resource mobilization, institutionalization of urban reforms and prepare and implement the development plans for urban areas. The policies and plans of the eighth plan were focused on the establishment of a GIS center, preservation of the agricultural land, and prepare a national level master plan for the transport sector. For the first time, the government decided to provide housing loan through the banks, and encouraged the private housing companies. In the ninth and tenth plan also many policies and strategies were adopted and even, with the assistance of Asian Development Bank (ADB) a comprehensive plan ((Halcro Fox et al, 1991) was prepared for the Kathmandu Valley urban areas. However, most of the policies and programs were not implemented.

Now, the government, in the three-year interim plan (2007, 414-15), accepted the lack of urban development policy, lack of coordination among the urban agencies regarding physical development plans, and unhealthy competition between town development committees and municipalities due to overlapping the roles and responsibilities, the urban development function could not be implemented duly. In the present context, the urban areas are facing numerous challenges which are:

  • How to manage uncontrolled and disorganized urban areas?
  • How to manage adequate supply of human resources to manage the cities with adequate infrastructure services?
  • How to maintain coordination among plethora of organizations working in the field of urban management? and
  • How to provide the people easy access to housing and other urban services?

Now, the government seems concerned about how to check the haphazard growth of urban areas, and how to strengthen the institutional capabilities of the organizations engaged in urban development.

Beginning of Local Planning

The Land Acquisition Act 1977 authorizes the government to acquire land for the purpose of planned development and for the extension of the roads. However, the first district level plan was prepared in 1974, where the Chief District Officer (CDO) was made the head and coordinator of the works carried out in the district. The underlying features were that the people would be involved in the preparation, implementation and evaluation of such plans which were carried out by the people.

The regional development plans also focused on the urban development by developing regional development headquarters in five development regions- Dhankuta in the East, Kathmandu in the Mid, Pokhara in the West, Surkhet in theMidwest and Dipayal-Silgadi in the Far West. But, these developments under regional development efforts were totally controlled by the government.

Similarly, theLocal Self Government Act (LSGA) 1999 has made the following provisions for participatory and local level planning:

  • Preparation of periodic and annual plan for the purpose of Local Bodies (LBs) (local governments in Nepal are known as local bodies).
  • Planning Commission and the concerned ministry (Ministry of Local Development- MLD) would provide policy guidelines at the end of Kartik (around the end of November). These are the basics of local plan preparation in Nepal.

In the periodic plans indicating geographical, economic, and natural resources and their use is necessary. Similarly, the LBs have to identify the comparative advantages of such plans relating to productive possibility of the area.

While preparing the plans the LBs have to consider the following components:

  • Focused on backward communities, poverty stricken areas and already running activities and the development activities to be undertaken in the future.
  • Income generating and skill-based programs for the women
  • Implementing procedures and maintenance provisions for the completed ones
  • Possible short-term and long-term development plans and programs
  • Human resource development plans and programs prepared by the local people
  • Major considerations while preparing plans and programs at the local level
  • Guidance
  • District level policies and plans prepared in line with the national plans
  • District level policy and plans identified by the periodic plans
  • Plans and projects received from VDCs and Municipalities

Before planning takes place at the local level, the LBs have to take a stock of the resources available for successful implementation of planning. These are:

  • Own resource base to implement the plan
  • Block grant and other grants from the government
  • Sectoral investment grant received from the sectoral ministries
  • Other sources including NGOs and INGOs.

Steps Followed in Participatory Planning

  • Conduct local level meetings to identify the needs of the people
  • Mobilization of the people
  • Adopting small group approach
  • Preparation of a model agenda for meeting
  • Adopt a Semi-structured questionnaire approach derived from the Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) techniques for discussions
  • Assessment of the local resources and problems and accordingly formulate development reports
  • Generate a comprehensive database for every locality for local level planning
  • Identification of significant ecological variations in the area through Rapid Rural Appraisal (RRA) and PRA
  • Preparation of development reports that includes the information about the local economic, social, geographical and human resources

Formulation of Local Plans

  • Choice of the projects and program to be included in the annual plans
  • Design the structure of plan document and the procedures for its adoption by the decision makers
  • Adoption of resolution by the elected representatives of the local bodies that enunciates the inter-sectoral and the intra-sectoral priorities
  • Higher levels have to coordinate, integrate, and fill in the gaps of the local plans
  • Integration of local level plans with the block or district level plans
  • Appraisal and approval of plans by an expert political commitment and support

These are the general practices that are followed in preparing the local level plans. The Decentralization Act or the Local Self Governance Act has made it mandatory to follow these steps and procedures while preparing the local plans for the local areas. This indicates that the people's participation is involved in every step of planning, and now this participatory practice in planning of urban areas in land pooling is being practiced.

Planning is basically a responsibility of the Ministry of Physical Planning and Works (recently it is converted into Ministry of Urban Development, but is to take its full shape). Under this ministry, there are Departments and Town Planning Committees which are made responsible to the planning and physical development of the urban areas. Among them, the KVTDC is one which is a high-level body chaired by the Minister concerned. Similarly, planning responsibilities are also given to the municipalities. Besides this ministry, the Ministry of Local Development (MLD) is also responsible for managing the human resources and approving the budget and the rules and regulations of the municipalities. The chief executive officers and even planning and finance officers are deputed from this ministry. So, the municipalities have dual institutional responsibilities in planning and urban management. The following paragraphs will shed light on the planning authorities in Nepal:

Planning Authorities in Nepal

1.   Town Development Committees

The government has created planning authorities in all the 58 municipalities, and some VDCs which are called urban-oriented VDCs, however, these planning authorities are merely tooth-less and jaw-less bodies. These committees do not have sufficient budget and technical competence from the viewpoint of human resources, who can plan the urban areas themselves nor can they advise the municipalities in their own capacity. Most of the committees are without the planning officers, and their authority is mostly challenged by the municipalities.

Some planning authorities like KVTDC (recently converted into authority) are rather competent planning authority with adequate human resource (114 employees including 4 engineers, 1 lawyer, 3 fiscal officers (KVTDC, 2011). The committee has 19 members represented by the secretaries of the seven ministries- Ministry of urban development, home, water resources, information and communication, forest and soil conservation, law justice and parliamentary affairs; Director General of the Department of Urban Development; Chairman of the Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur District Development Committees; mayors of the five municipalities of the valley; and is headed by the Minister of Urban Development. The mandate of the committee, in the long run, is to (KVTDC, 2011):

  • Gradually raising the standard of living of the people of the Kathmandu Valley; and
  • To conserve and promote the man-made and natural, historical, religious and archeological monuments and places.

The other short-term objectives (ibid):

  • To control the haphazard growth of the municipal areas and give the right direction to the development of the cities,
  • To protect the agricultural and pasture and forest land,
  • To protect and improve the archeological, natural and tourist sites,
  • To control the pressure on the city core of Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur municipalities,
  • To develop the residential places to promote planned settlements,
  • To initiate expansion of the city development in the suitable places, and
  • To prepare land use plan so as to develop the city zoning.

The KVTDC has also a Steering Committee where mayors of the 5 municipalities of the Kathmandu Valley, chief of the infrastructure services, chief of the religious land trust, and the chief planner of the KVTDC works as the member-secretary of the committee. Besides this steering committee, the sub-committees can be formed to look after the sectoral programs in the planning of the development activities.

2.   Municipalities’ Role in Planning and Physical Development (LSGA, 1999, Article 96 (b))

Besides the Town Development Committees, municipalities are also entrusted the role of planning and physical development of their cities. The following are the mandates given to the municipalities by the LSGA, 1999:

  • To frame land use plan in the municipal areas indicating  industrial, residential, recreational and agricultural zones;
  • To prepare housing plans and implement them in their areas;
  • To plan, operate, maintain and repair the drinking water and drainage;
  • To plan and operate green belts, parks and recreational areas;
  • To manage public toilets;
  • To approve the design of buildings to be constructed in the municipal areas; and
  • To build community buildings and rest houses.

Planning Modalities

The modalities adopted by the KVTDC in planning are basically Guided Land Development (GLD), Site and Service and Land Pooling (for details see Joshi, 2008).

Guided Land Development

In the GLD planning, the committee, under the request or by the government intervention, opens up the road networks in the unplanned land of the people where it does or sometimes does not charge for opening the track, building retaining walls and gravelling the road but the people will have to contribute their land for the track. Till date, the committee during 1988 to 1990 has successfully opened around 300 km of roads in Kathmandu, 137 km roads in Patan and 38 km in Bhaktapur municipal areas (KVTDC 2011). The length and width of such road is 4, 6, 8, and 11 meters.

Site and Service

It is another kind of planning adopted by the KVTDC for the planning and physical development. In this process of planning, the committee purchases the land and develops it into fully serviced plots and sells them back to the public. Kuleswor and Gulfutar are such projects which were planned under site and service and distributed as housing plots to the public at current prices.

Land Pooling

In the land pooling type of planning, the committee, under the request of the land owners of a particular area to plan their land, takes the application and conducts the feasibility study of the area. The basic of such planning is that the land owners themselves contribute the cost of the project by contributing around 30 to 35 per cent of the land as project cost. The practice is that some portion of the land is set for sale in the market to generate the resources. Till then, the government lends the project cost from a trust fund (at present, it is around Rs. 50 million), which is especially created to fund the planning activities with an annual interest of 13 per cent. A project in charge with necessary staffs is appointed by the committee. From the discussion with the officials of the committee, the average time to complete a project is five to six years. The project first collects all land ownership certificates from the owners and designs the plot for the road (around 22 per cent of the total land), open space (around 5 per cent) and for others around 7 per cent. The people then get a temporary land ownership certificates from a sub-committee formed for this purpose. The committee also forms sub-committees for every sectoral purpose of the planning. The construction work of the planning can be carried on by the consumer society itself, but heavy works like paving the roads, electricity works, sewage and drinking water is carried out through e-bidding. The limit of the work of the consumer society is not more than 6 million at a time, but it can apply for the second or third after clearing the assigned tasks to the management of the consumer society.

The following steps are taken in land pooling kind of planning:

  • Submission of the application to the KVTDC by the community land owners, with a request for the development of their land into modern plots in a planned way.
  • Conducting a feasibility study of the area identified for the plan by the KVTDC.
  • Formation of consumer society from among the land owners.
  • Public notice to hold the land by the committee for re-plotting, re-registration, physical development and selling. However, one can sell the land without re-plotting.
  • Preparation of the detailed project report (DPR)
  • Formation of the management committee and sub-committees for dispensing the planning. 
  • Under the recommendation of the consumer society, the management committee puts forward the final proposal to the KVTDC
  • DPR also has to be approved by the consumer society
  • Action or implementation of the project. Before the implementation, around two years is needed to come to implement the project and around three years is generally taken to finally complete the project in such land pooling planning project.

Among the three planning strategies in Nepal, land pooling is becoming popularity since it is fully controlled by the consumers, though the technical component is totally managed by the committee's project office. The consumer society members are regularly trying to minimize the cost and maximize the number of plots so that they would minimize the contribution of the land in the project cost. While discussing with the consumer society members, it was found that they have minimized the contribution of the land to roads just by diverting the initial plan but without affecting the planning design.

Till date, the KVTDC has been successful in completing physical development plans of ten areas under the land pooling project (table 1)

Table 1: Projects under Land Pooling

SN Status No. of Projects Ropanis (5476 sq.ft. in one ropani) Total plots Total road length
1. Completed projects 10 4366 10,779 78.52 km
2. Ongoing projects 10 7271 11,590 Not clear
3. projects about to complete  2 1453 2,581 21 km

Source: KVTDC 2011

From the above information, it seems that this kind of project is quite popular in the planning and physical development of Kathmandu Valley. That is why the committee is successful in completing 10 projects, ten projects are running and another two projects are about to complete soon. Despite its popularity and people’s participation, the planning is not free from issues.

Emerging Issues in Land Pooling Planning

Naturally, the planning under the community participation might have many conflicting interests (see Lee and Courtney: 1988). Some are within the community members and some others are from outside the community. However, three types of conflicts may arise during planning phases in such projects (discussion with the KVTDC officials):

  • Broker originated conflicts, In Kathmandu Valley and elsewhere in Nepal, most of the land is sold by the brokers. This is because the government is neither able to intervene for the land management nor is able to control the individual developers from developing the urban land in a planned way. So, most of the land brokers are working without registration. In one way, a huge amount of money is siphoned to such broker's pockets, and thereby a huge amount of tax is lost by the treasury. It is a kind of incompetence. These brokers informally intervene in such plan for not letting it succeed because they fear that planned development of the land means losing the land for brokering.
  • Some of the land owners are holding more land than that specified in their land certificates. Naturally, these people oppose such planned development for fear of losing such illegally captured land.
  • The other people who oppose the planned development of the land are those who already have access roads to their land. Naturally, they feel that they would have to lose the land for additional roads in the interest of other and for increasing the prices of other's lands. In planning, people stand to lose around 32 to 35 per cent of their lands for roads, open spaces and community halls. 
  • The other category of people who oppose the planning in land pooling are the farmers. Many people are still surviving with farming in the city areas. Not only this, some of the farmers are enjoying farming in the land of others but do not have to pay anything to the landlords. So these people have complaints against the planning authorities

During the planning period, many people are not satisfied with the activities of the planning project. So, they prefer to go to the project implementation committee and sometimes to the court complaining against the planning authorities.

The other conflicts that generally arise in the planning period are (Project office of the Planning committee):

  • Many cases come to the office complaining about the size of the land, and they must get a bigger size land instead of the present one. People feel that there must be some wrongdoing on the part of the planning management. This happens just because of ignorance.
  • Many people have not renewed their registered land, so planning office cannot maintain the record of those people. Sometimes such land is counted as public land. In the meantime, some people come to claim their land. So, the monitoring and supervisory committee looks after the cases and if the cases are found to be genuine, the land owner gets the serviced and developed plot.
  • Sometimes, public land is also occupied by the people, so they want that land to be registered under their name. Their claim is that the land has been used by them for years. But, such cases are dismissed in the consumer society meetings.
  • The selection of the plot also becomes a source of conflict since everybody would like to have the plot in commercial and advantaged area which is not possible. Also, many people would lose their land at the same place where it was because of the land size being too small. In such a case, the planning office has a provision to shift the land or in case of total loss the people are offered the current price for their share or are asked to pay more money to get additional land, which sometimes becomes beyond the reach of the people. In such cases, settlement becomes quite difficult.

 The process to solve the case is that at first the monitoring and supervision sub-committee takes the case and tries to arrive at settlement. If the claimant is not satisfied, the case is forwarded to the consumer society which, through thorough discussion with its members, tries to resolve the case. But, if the claimant is still not satisfied, the case is forwarded to the project implementation office where most of the cases are resolved. However, if the person is still not satisfied, he/she can move the court. Till date, none of the cases has been won by the individual person (discussion with project official).


Planning in Nepal is not a new phenomenon; the first was during the 1960s. After that, subsequent plans have been formulated with or without the cooperation of the donor community and international donor agencies. The Nepali plans, during the planning effort, had mostly focused on reforming the Kathmandu Valley so as to make it the capital city, tourist city, cultural city and so on. The regional concept was introduced in Nepal for minimizing the population pressure in Kathmandu Valley and other big cities of Nepal. Also, most of the plans were focused on saving the major cities from congestion, overcrowding, pollution and problem of infrastructure services. But, during these years, preparing and implementing a comprehensive plan was missing. Most of the areas were developed through the concept of owner builder’s plan without any strict land use plan and intervention of the government and the planning authority. The government neither provided the housing and building construction loans nor facilities for loans. Only in later days the government realized that loans for building construction was necessary. Now, the banks and finance companies and even employees’ provident fund have managed to facilitate this type of loan to the construction companies and the public.

If we look at the previous discussion, we find that Nepal suffices from the multiplicity of urban development agencies including the agencies for infrastructures and social services. However, their coordination is mission. 

In recent days, the government has undertaken a participatory planning approach to develop the urban land in a planned way. The reason was that the government, in the present context, cannot afford to buy the land in Kathmandu, where land prices have multiplied and still soaring. So, the participatory planning could be the best alternative. In the beginning, the government opted to use Site and Service method to regulate the unplanned growth of the valley, but later the government was criticized of doing a kind of business like job in such a method. Also, the government was finding difficulties to purchase the costly land of the cities so it opted to follow the Guided Land Development (GLD) method in urban planning and physical development of the Kathmandu Valley. However, the recent method adopted is land pooling, where the community itself participates in decision-making to plan implementation of urban planning. At first, the majority of the people opposed this method of planning, but when they understood the benefits of the planned and serviced land value people themselves become the messengers of such planning. That is why the government has already completed 10 land pooling projects, two are in the verge of completion and 10 more projects are running in the valley. With the success of the land pooling and people’s participation therein, the government is in a mood to have more similar projects in the future.

The method is not free from conflicts. People still have many grudges against the procedures of such planning and in the method of re-distribution of land. However, many such complaints and conflicts are settled in the project office itself. Those cases which go up to the project management committee and even to the courts have been resolved duly.

However, the planning authorities have missed some of their mandated jobs. For example, in the duties of the KVTDC, it is clearly written that the authority will be working to protect, among others, the farmland but most of the plans are taken in the most fertile rice fields. Even this symptom has been passed on to the Tarai plains of Nepal, which is known as the granary of the country.

Summary and Conclusion

Though planning exercise was initiated in Nepal during the 1960s with the support of the UN, and there were many planning exercises but unplanned growth of the Kathmandu Valley continued unabated. However, these days the government, among other things, has adopted a participatory planning method to regularize the development of the urban areas, which is becoming quite popular, though it is not free from conflicts and resentments.


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Sutcliffe, Anthony (ed), (1980), The Rise of Modern Planning 1800-1940, London: Mansel Publishing.


Prabin Babu Dhakal's picture

Thank you for very good and informative article Prof Govind Dhakal

Laxmi Kant Paudel's picture

This was a very informative article about local governance Prof. Govind Dhakal.