Tomorrow’s Resilient Kathmandu: Report on Imagining Futures Workshop

Rachana Upadhyaya and Mark Pelling
Tomorrow's Cities
Working paper
June 2020

The niche of the Tomorrow's Cities project lies in the fact that 60 percent of the area that is expected to be urban by 2030 is yet to be built. Kathmandu is one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the South Asia region and the most critical place within Nepal that is facing unprecedented challenges –ramifications of unplanned development and urban sprawl. Kathmandu's core city can no longer accommodate population or infrastructural expansion and therefore, the urban settlements have slowly begun to spread on the last remaining agricultural lands on the peripheral areas of the core city. With the new publicly elected representatives at the local level, after more than two decades, the development planning has been handed down to these local units. However, there also exist overlapping structures in the federal government that employ federal mandates of city planning. Within the Kathmandu context, the development plans of both the municipal government and the federal government play out in these last remaining green spaces of the valley. Hence, the different city actors need to agree on a vision of what a resilient Kathmandu would look like.

Workshop methods with participatory adult learning tools were employed to bring together key city policy actors and understand (differing) visions of resilient Kathmandu. Through a series of sessions, the participants agreed on a vision where a capacitated municipal government was the precondition for a resilient city. Better technical knowledge of the municipal staff, participatory and inclusive planning, community cohesion, and strong social networks were the characteristics of the high capacity of municipal government that enhanced city resilience. Whereas, redundant policies and institutional structure at different tiers of government, low capacity of human resources at the municipal offices impeded the desired vision of the resilient city. The participants agreed on the positive role science can play in capacitating the municipal government on participatory and evidence-based decision making.

While the municipal government is one of the key actors, there are other structures within different tiers of government that can enhance/undermine the city resilience. Taking the municipal authority as a departure point, the Tomorrow's Cities project can inquire on the roles and relationship of the municipal government with the community it governs, the federal policies/institutions that it is regulated by and its relationship with other potential external influencers like the private sector and donor agencies. And hence understand how the urbanization process will unfold (converge or depart from the old ways) in the new federal system of governance.