(New York) - The government of Nepal should take immediate action to stop forcible evictions in Kathmandu, Human Rights Watch said today.
On May 8, 2012, Kathmandu municipality officials and the Armed Police Force began forcibly evicting residents of settlements along the Bagmati River to make way for a planned urban development project, leaving many of the evicted homeless and destitute. Local nongovernmental organizations report that the demolitions so far have destroyed 257 homes and left 844 people homeless, including 401 children. A primary school that 200 children attended was also destroyed. Authorities plan to evict an estimated 12,000 people in Kathmandu for the planned project.
“If this first round of evictions is any indication, the government of Nepal has no intention to respect the rights of the people living in the settlements,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The government has obligations – at a minimum – to respect due procedure, to inform people affected well in advance, and to ensure availability of alternative housing with basic infrastructure and services.”
The evictions were not carried out in compliance with applicable due process standards, and the government has not provided compensation or social services to those affected, including children, Human Rights Watch said.
According to credible reports from local groups, the government has failed to ensure that alternative housing arrangements are adequate and sustainable. A group working with children and schools in just one of the settlements reported that 25 families with children slept outside next to their razed homes for the two nights following the demolition. Another group has allowed 50 families to sleep on the floor in their nearby office. Families report they fear violence and theft, and that they have nowhere to go and nowhere to send their children to school.
In January, Human Rights Watch wrote to the government of Nepal, the government’s High Powered Committee for Integrated Development of the Bagmati Civilization, and the Task Force on Forced Evictions, outlining the international standards that apply to forced evictions.
The Bagmati Action Plan for the redevelopment project reports that more than 4,000 squatters live along the Bagmati River. Squatters rights groups say that the figure is even higher and point to the High Powered Committee’s estimate of 10,500 people over 76 hectares of riverside land. According to research by Lumanti, an urban poverty nongovernmental group in Kathmandu, 41 percent of the people in the city’s squatter settlements are under age 19.
Properly planned urban planning and environmental sustainability projects can advance development and promote social and economic rights, Human Rights Watch said. But such developments should comply with Nepal’s obligations under international law, respect the rights of the individuals and communities concerned, and conform to the best international practices.
The government of Nepal should comply with the UN-developed specific standards when embarking on development-based evictions, Human Rights Watch said. Theseinclude those set out by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, in interpreting the right to adequate housing under that covenant, to which Nepal is a party and which it is legally bound to respect.
Based on these standards, evictions should never leave people homeless or vulnerable to the violation of human rights. Evictions should never occur during the school year or at times when the displacement of families will interrupt children’s education. And evictions should not take place in bad weather. It is pre-monsoon season in Nepal, and the evicted homeless families are left without any shelter during the rains.
“The need for urban development and environmental protection is no excuse for disrespecting and disregarding people’s basic rights,” Adams said. “Promotion of the public good and respect for human rights are, and should always be, mutually compatible.”