Located at the holy confluence of the Seti and Madi rivers and revered as the land of Maharshis Ved Vyas and Parasara, Vyas Municipality was established in 1992 by combining some parts of Syamgha VDC with the Damauli VDC. In 2014, the government enlarged the municipality by incorporating the Pokhari Bhanjyang VDC into it. In 2017, as part of the federal restructuring of the state, the government made Syamgha VDC, Kyamin VDC, wards 4 to 9 of the Tanahunsur VDC, wards 2 to 7 of the Keshavtar VDC, wards 2 to 8 of the Ghansikuwa VDC, wards 1 to 5 and 7 to 9 of the Risti VDC and wards 6 to 9 of the Satiswanra VDC part of the Vyas Municipality. Located 150 kilometres west of the national capital Kathmandu and 50 kilometres east of Gandaki's provincial capital Pokhara, Vyas lies on the Prithvi Highway in Tanahun district. The municipality is led by Baikuntha Neupane who was elected for a second term last year from the Nepali Congress party. The Rising Nepal's Tanahun correspondent Amar Raj Naharki interviewed him this week. Excerpts:
What major works have you carried out?
I began my first term on May 19, 2017 and my second term on May 25, 2022. We incorporated many rural areas over the years and only wards 1 to 4 may be classified as urban. This has made us economically, socially, geographically and developmentally diverse. Hence, our motto is also "Diverse are our villages and cities, prosperous is our Vyas Municipality".
We have prioritised the agriculture, tourism and education sectors for our development. Vyas Parasara Area, Pulimryang, Tanahunsur Pratimang, Galekhamkot and Karlungkot, among others are being promoted as attractive destinations. We are also working on the Baireni Land Development Project, Nareshwor Lake Construction and Madi River Integrated Development Project. A 108-foot-tall statue of Vyas is also being built.
Have you experienced any differences between your first and second term?
COVID-19 stalled everything for two years during our first term while the national economic slowdown has affected our pace of work in this second term. Many projects lie incomplete and we are finding it difficult to bring marginalised groups into the mainstream of development.
In the first year of our second term, the federal government withheld nearly Rs. 120 million that was supposed to come to us under the revenue sharing system and as part of equalisation grants. Our internal income also dropped by Rs. 100 million. The federal government has not completed the payments of the supplementary and special grants that it promised. It needs to pay Rs. 140 million from last fiscal year.
The residents of Vyas have greater expectations of us in our second term but the resources available to us have dwindled. That is why we have felt that the people are dissatisfied.
Despite being the district headquarter, the Damauli still does not have a well-equipped hospital. Everyone complains that the local level has not paid adequate attention to the health sector. What do you have to say about this?
I had made two promises for my second term – to complete incomplete projects and to deliver development to the groups who have lagged behind. Because of the decrease in the budget we have been given, we have not been able to record as much progress on these fronts as we would have liked.
The hospital in Damauli is under the provincial government. The municipality has not been given any role in its functioning. Political appointments to its management committee has kept the hospital from progressing. The hospital also lacks land for expansion. But it can get it from the Agriculture Knowledge Centre, and the Veterinary Hospital and Livestock Service Expert Centre, both of which are also under the provincial government. The hospital can be upgraded but Gandaki Province's government does not seem to have the willpower to do so.
The municipality wants to build a hospital of its own and has proposed Baghe Chaur in Ward No. 11 as the site for it.
What do you plan to do about unemployment here?
Unemployment is a national problem. Economic decline has affected the industrial sector very badly. So, we are trying to create jobs in agriculture. We are also trying to generate employment in tourism and education. However, the municipality alone will not be able to do much.
You have also been accused of ignoring agriculture.
Agriculture is our first priority. We have constituted an agriculture promotion committee under my leadership to coordinate with the federal and provincial governments to develop agriculture.
What plans have you brought to boost tourism?
We organise the Manahun-Pulimryang Marathon and the Vyas Cave-Tanahunsur Women's Half Marathon to bring visitors. We are also building a 108-foot statue of Vyas to attract tourists. Furthermore, the municipality has been actively promoting homestays. Work is also moving forward on developing the Vyas Parasara region and the Madi River area.
Is there anything you would like to say before we end?
We are working sincerely to serve all municipality denizens and increase the local government's revenue. But we cannot do everything. There are many things that are outside the municipality's jurisdiction. We have to coordinate with the province and the centre. Nevertheless, we are utilising our resources in the best possible way to benefit all those who call Vyas Municipality home.