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World Habitat Day 2023: Need of Resilient Urban Economies

2 October 2023, Kathmandu.

Government of Nepal, Ministry of Urban development (MOUD) in collaboration with UN-Habitat Nepal and various stakeholders working in the field of urban and housing development organized a workshop to mark the World Habitat Day (WHD) 2023, on 2nd October with the theme ‘Resilient Urban Economies: Cities and Drivers of Growth & Recovery’.

Honourable Minister of Ministry of Urban Development Ms. Sita Gurung graced the event as the Chief Guest, in the inaugural session chaired by Mr. Dilip Bhandari, Joint secretary of MOUD. Special Guests Mr. Padma Kumar Mainalee, Acting Secretary of MOUD, Dr. Biswoanath Poudel, Former Vice President of National Planning Commission and Chief Economic Advisor of Ministry of Finance, Ms. Januka Dhakal, Development Commissioner, Kathmandu Valley Development Authority (KVDA), and guests as Mr. Surendra Mohan Shrestha, Director General of Department of Urban Development and Building Construction (DUDBC), Ms. Pragya Pradhan, Habitat Program Manager of UN-Habitat Nepal and Mr. Kalanidhi Devkota, Executive Director of Municipal Association of Nepal (MUAN) highlighted the priority areas for Nepal in strengthening urban economy.

Inauguration Session:

Hon. Minister Ms. Sita Gurung reinforced the commitment to ensure the fundamental rights enshrined in the constitution on right to housing and basic services, right to enjoy socio-economic prosperity and livelihood upliftment, which is possible only through managed urban and economic development in the cities. She emphasized the importance of inter-agency, inter-ministerial coordination, stability in leadership in public offices and the role of the local government, for setting and striving for a collective development vision with a long-term strategy for sustainable growth and development. She also expressed her views on the need of integrated settlement in rural areas, where cost of infrastructure is higher due to sparsely scattered settlements, and importance of actualization of land use policy especially in new urban areas for managed urbanization.

Mr. Padma Kumar Mainalee, Acting Secretary, MOUD provided the historical transition on the celebration of World Habitat Day that has seen a shift from ‘housing for all’ to ‘Cities for all’ and now ‘Cities as the centre for growth, recovery and economy’. He underscored that essence of the National Urban Policy - 2007, and the concept of regional development envisaged through urban rural service areas and corridor planning to impact national economy, which has been actualised through the time. He also highlighted various initiatives of MOUD for implementation of the policy which now needs to shift towards perceiving and developing cities as a product for investment and innovation, which demands political commitment for the leadership.

Similarly, Ms. Januka Dhakal, Development Commissioner KVDA stressed the importance of integrating social, economic and environmental aspects of development, to make our cities more liveable and inclusive. Further, she linked it with the concept of satellite cities proposed by KVDA in four locations in Kathmandu valley, aimed to demonstrate liveable cities through better urban management.

Mr. Dilip Bhandari, Joint Secretary, MOUD and the Session Chair reiterated the objective of World Habitat Day as an opportunity to bring together urban stakeholders to discuss on key urban issues of the national concerns. He thanked the stakeholders, on behalf of the organizing committee, for their valuable contribution in making the program a success.

Mr. Surendra Mohan Shrestha, Director General, DUDBC explained about various projects implemented by the department and the planned projects that could be game changer in urban development of Nepal. However, he also highlighted the issue of budget deficit, a major challenge for the department in implementation of the urban development projects.

In the remarks by Mr. Prakirna Tuladhar, Deputy Director General of DUDBC marked the achievement from WHD 2022 to WHD 2023 with delivery of two tangible outputs: the publication Urban Development, a compilation of the articles and journals, and the review of GESI Operational Guideline - 2013 of the MOUD. Both documents as key publications, guided by its WHD 2022 theme “Leave No One and Place Behind” and initiated with inputs received during the participatory discussions during WHD. The GESI Operational Guideline was revised during 2023 with engagement of multi-stakeholders and through technical support from UN-Habitat. The guideline was formally endorsed in September 2023 and launched by the Honourable Minister Ms. Sita Gurung as a gesture to inaugurate the WHD 2023.

The video message from UN-Habitat Executive Director, Ms. Maimunah Mohd Sharif, was followed by brief note from Ms. Pragya Pradhan, Habitat Program Manager of UN-Habitat. She provided an overview of global scenario of linkage between urbanization and economic growth, which is not reflected in context of Nepal, which is evident from the share of GDP of the provinces (Bagmati being 37%, while Karnali 4%) and urged for the balanced economic development, leaving no one and no place behind in the process. She also underscored the needs of tackling the challenges imposed by COVID and climate change for inclusive and resilient urban development.

Mr. Kalanidhi Devkota, Executive Director of MUAN stressed on the importance of urban-rural linkage, hierarchy of settlement for context specific planning, to make the cities more liveable and with unique identity to build on the economic base. He also emphasized on the need of considering the floating population in urban economy to make the development more inclusive and in making cities vibrant, expanding potentials to function as the engine of growth.

Keynote Speech: