Myopic view tower building spree

Government wasting money on construction of view towers on already lofty peaks

View tower at Thini village in Mustang. Photo: RSS

Now that Nepal’s local governments have run out of roads to bulldoze, they are building view towers on every mountaintop they can find.

It is hard to pinpoint where this fetish to construct towers on top of already very high peaks originates, but the trend could have been set by the first one built at Sim Bhanjyang on the Tribhuvan Rajpath in the 1960s.

But the view tower pandemic really started in the last ten years and accelerated after the election of local governments in 2017, when rural municipalities vied with each other to build concrete structures on mountain tops in the mistaken belief that it enhances the view and help attract tourists.

Read also: Nepal’s shortsighted view-tower craze

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Futuristic looking view towers in Toplang of Dhading and Kakani of Nuwakot.

In actual fact, they are eye sores and a colossal waste of money that could have been spent on health, education or repairing existing roads.

“Elected officials are trying to mask their failure to address the true needs of their people by wasting taxpayers' money on non-functional construction,” Purshottam Nepal, formerly at the Ministry of Federal Affairs told Himal Khabar.

Bagmati Province alone has built a view tower in nine of its 13 districts at a total cost of Rs238 million. Other provinces are trying to catch up. Gandaki Province set aside Rs180 million to build view towers on peaks that are already very lofty. Kosi Province 1 is spending Rs10 billion on view towers in 16 sites. 

Even Sudur Paschim Province, which is behind other parts of the country in development, is afflicted with the edifice complex and set aside Rs2.5 billion which it can ill afford to build a view tower in Kailali district.

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The first-ever view tower built on the newly-opened Tribhuvan Rajpath in Daman. Photo taken in 1970.

Except for the Valley’s three districts and Chitwan, Bagmati Province’s Makwanpur, Nuwakot, Sindhupalchok, Kavre, Ramechhap, Sindhuli, Nuwakot, Dhading and Dolakha are all proud owners of at least one view tower each.

Because view towers have become so common, local governments are calling them ‘hill stations’, with some of them having conference centres, public toilets and other facilities to attract visitors. However, the structures will only be handed over to local rural municipalities after their terms of reference for sustainable tourism are prepared, says Roshan Srivastav of Bagmati’s Tourism, Industries and Cooperative Ministry.

If the municipalities cannot manage the facilities, they can be managed by local community forest user groups and can charge visitors’ fees, Srivastav said.


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The view tower on Resunga peak in Gulmi.

Perhaps the most egregious symbol of the view tower craze is the new SkyWalk tower in Kathmandu’s Kamaladi neighbourhood. The hourglass shaped steel and glass structure cost Rs2 billion and has been criticised for being a jarring monolith that violates the Valley’s traditional architectural style.

The 80m high tower has a glass floor on its top deck and has already become a ‘selfie spot’ for visitors, although the Rs1,000 entry fee is regarded as being exorbitant.

Barely 200m away, another 29-storey Kathmandu View Tower has been under construction now for 8 years, and has been embroiled in allegations of massive corruption. The half-complete Rs7 billion structure is currently being used as a car park.

Read also: Nepal’s ‘war tourism’ is a scam

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Siddhababa view tower in Sindhuli.

Last year, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal inaugurated a view tower in Rolpa district at a cost of Rs600 million when the district does not even have an adequately staffed district hospital and its roads are in a permanent state of disrepair.

Not to be outdone, K P Oli of the opposition UML inaugurated another 12-storey view tower in Rupandehi district. Oli was prime minister when he allocated Rs 1.5 billion to construct a 15-storey view tower in his constituency in Jhapa district. 

Critics of these structures have poured scorn on social media, saying they are just manifestations of megalomania and a way for local politicians to award construction contracts to their cronies. Others said that since there were no more highways to be built, governments were on a view tower and airfield building spree without proper environmental and ecological impact studies.

Says Khemraj Nepal who used to be secretary in the Ministry of Local Development:  “The need is for skills development, income generation, education and health, but none of the three levels of government are fulfilling this responsibility.”

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