Come Sunday, Thamel will become a “vehicle-free area” in a move that has been hailed by many who have long been calling for making the major tourist hub of the Capital a walk-only zone.
The recent initiative is part of a long-term vision of declaring the area completely vehicle-free and promoting the popular tourist destination as pedestrian-only zone.
The step is being taken to make tourists’ movement hassle-free in the Thamel area, which is seeing heavy congestion due to vehicular movement, according to Sameer Gurung, president of the Thamel Tourism Development Council (TTDC).
“This is not a complete blanket ban on vehicular movement inside the Thamel. We are just restricting some unwanted vehicles that are causing difficulties for tourists and everyone here,” said Gurung, adding, “Despite Thamel being the tourist hub of Kathmandu Valley and the whole country, tourists and other pedestrians are at risk here due to haphazard movement of vehicles in Thamel where roads are narrow.”
Various stakeholders including local body, civil society, local clubs, tourism entrepreneurs, Thamel residents and the Metropolitan Traffic Police Division (MTPD) have come together to make the tourist hub vehicle-free.
The move is aimed at controlling the increasing air and noise pollution and to ensure safety of the pedestrians including tourists. In its first phase, the vehicle-free zone will cover the sections from Prayatan Marg to Saat Ghumti Chowk and Hotel Buddha to JP Chowk on the Chaksibari road.
According to Gurung, unwanted vehicles that include empty taxis, micro vans, motorbike and others will not be allowed to ply these sections. However, the committee said the plan is in its preliminary phase and that it would be revised later after receiving feedbacks.
“These steps are being taken in view of long-term benefits to everyone including the area itself, which is battling against pollution and overcrowding of vehicles,” said Gurung, adding, “We are implementing this as a pilot programme. Later, we will seek feedbacks from everyone and plan accordingly.” As part of the plan, Jyatha Marg and Tridevi Marga will become two-way road. Similarly, Saat Ghumti, Sorhakhutte height, Kshetrapati, Bhagwati Bahal, Amrit Marga and Thahiti will serve as exit ways from Thamel.
The committee, formed to implement this decision, will also crack down on taxis and motorbikes parked on inner streets of Thamel. Also, one way rule for vehicles will be strictly forced.
There have, however, been concerns from entrepreneurs, especially hoteliers regarding supply of items and receiving guests at the hotel. For this, there will be special passes given to hotel entrepreneurs so that vehicles with guests and their luggage could reach the hotel premises.
“This is a bold step for the entire Thamel area. It should be implemented as long as it benefits everyone,” said Rajan Shakya, CEO of the Kathmandu Guest House.
“We should go ahead with this plan. If this emerges as a successful model, locals and entrepreneurs will press for continuing this idea themselves.”
The committee has assured that it will also arrange some separate duration for delivery of goods for the businesses running inside the area.
According to Khem Tiwari, chairman of Ward 26 of the Kathmandu Metropolitan City, the committee will work on adding more parking spaces for vehicles that have to be left outside the area.
“This decision might cause difficulty for a short period of time. However, once implemented, it will yield positive results for everyone in Thamel. There are paid parking spaces at Employees Provident Fund office and more spaces will be available at Chhaya Centre,” said Tiwari.