Radio Janasanchar reporter interviews community member affected by the Nepalese government’s road expansion project in Kathmandu Valley. Photo: Radio Janasanchar
Newar Indigenous peoples displaced by a road expansion in Bhaktapur Municipality, Kathmandu Valley, have been promised compensation by the Nepalese government as a result of the local community’s activism, including a sustained public awareness campaign, according to WACC partner Radio Janasanchar.
From May to November 2018, Radio Janasanchar said it organized 20 public debates about the impact of the road expansion launched by the government in 2011. Relevant content was later packaged into a series of documentaries that were broadcast and shared on social media.
About 150,000 Newar households were evicted from their homes as a result of the road expansion drive, which happened without the communities’ Free, Informed, and Prior Consent as mandated by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and without any compensation, said Radio Janasanchar. The Newar people are the historical inhabitants of Kathmandu Valley, Nepal’s capital city, and they comprise about half its population.
Affected citizens, local leaders, government officials and civil society groups took part in the public debates held in Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, Lalitpur and Kirtipur.
“The debates were also a valuable space for community members to air their grievances in front of policymakers and decision-makers,” Radio Janasanchar said in its report to WACC, which joined U.S.-based ngo Cultural Survival in supporting the project. The debates prompted community members to organize themselves into a committee, which exercised pressure on the government, it said.
The radio station’s efforts complemented efforts of Indigenous peoples “to ensure their collective rights over land, territories, and natural resources,” it added. Civil society groups, including heritage conservation activists had been protesting the road project citing lack of consultation and adequate compensation for people who have lost ancestral properties. Local citizens had also filed complaints with Nepal’s National Human Rights Commission, which then asked the government to comply with legal procedure, including getting people’s consent and providing proper compensation.
The community’s advocacy, which included the filing of writ petitions by the Lawyers Association for Human Rights of Nepalese Indigenous Peoples, prompted the Supreme Court of Nepal to direct the government last year to stop displacing people without their consent and to provide adequate compensation to those affected by the road expansion.
Radio Janasanchar’s project sought to “strengthen its advocacy capacity, particularly in relation to the Newar communities’ land rights,” said Lorenzo Vargas, WACC Program Manager for Communication for Social Change.
The Newar, one of 59 Indigenous communities in Kathmandu Valley, are marginalized in terms of socio-economic conditions and political participation, said Vargas.
The project was also aimed at holding the government accountable and making officials aware of their social and human rights responsibilities toward the Newar people, said Radio Janasanchar in its project report.
Established in 2009 by a group of Newar Indigenous communities, with the support of Jana Sanchar Griha, a local civil society organization, the radio station produces programs in Nepali and Newar, focusing on current affairs, health and education, youth engagement, women’s empowerment and culture. The station was completely destroyed by the April 2015 earthquake in Nepal, and has been struggling to recover since.