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Breathing Life Into Hadigaun

by Shail Shrestha and Niharika Mathema

31 okt. 2023

Carfree Event Aims to Revive Neighborhood Identity

New life for Hadigaun began on World Carfree Day

On the occasion of World Carfree Day 2023, the neighborhood of Hadigaun in Kathmandu carried out its first collective effort to create a Carfree neighborhood. The program was led by the Kathmandu Metropolitan City Office, Hadigaun Ward 5 and most importantly the community. Residents actively participated in organizing activities, contributing ideas and volunteering their time.  The idea was conceptualized and supported by Digo Bikas Institute (DBI) and Environment and Public Health Organisation (ENPHO). DBI has been a part of the process since its initial consultation with the municipal officials and community members. DBI orchestrated a series of engaging activities designed to raise a sense of community responsibility.  This undertaking is a part of the long term vision to revitalize the historic capital of ancient Nepal by making it a permanent carfree zone. 

Workshops and awareness programs played a crucial role in educating residents about sustainable practices. Experts and local environmentalists were invited to share insights on reducing carbon footprints, and the importance of green spaces. The community actively participated in discussions, demonstrating a keen interest in adopting eco-friendly habits.

Street festival elements like food stalls and exhibitions of traditional craftsmanship were enjoyed by members of the community, who also took part in games and activities on the street, many of which brought back childhood memories. 

In this way, the participating adults and grandparents booked a ride on a time machine! They emerged as children jumping and running in the street, giggling and laughing while they celebrated the freedom of movement with the children and youth of the neighborhood. The area came alive with people from all walks of life who thronged to the street to be joyful participants of the transformation all around them.

Introducing “Playborhood”

These were all features of the "Playborhood" concept, which was introduced in the revitalization scheme of Hadigaun. Playborhood aims to create a neighborhood environment that fosters a sense of community and provides ample opportunities for children to engage in unstructured play.

The Playborhood concept further emphasizes the importance of outdoor play, social interaction, and active engagement with the neighborhood and its resources. The aim is to counteract the decline of outdoor play and increased screen time among children. By creating a neighborhood that prioritizes play and community engagement, children have the chance to develop social skills, enhance creativity, improve physical health, and foster a sense of belonging.

And all sorts of wonderful games could be played that day. This included Hopscotch, Jump rope, Dandibio (a traditional Nepali stick game), Running with the Wheels, slow-moving bicycle race, human scale Snake and Ladder, human scale ‘Tigers and Goats’ repurposed as ‘Cars and Pedestrians’. The atmosphere was filled with the sounds of laughter and the sight of families cycling and walking together, reinforcing the sense of community spirit.

By turning tigers and goats into cars and pedestrians, an analogy was created that could illustrate diverse scenarios: when pedestrians are unaware and not well organized they are gradually taken over by cars in their own neighborhood, whereas when people unite and strategize, cars can be controlled and people may reclaim their space. 

One of the highlights of the event was the emphasis on sustainable mobility methods. Residents were encouraged to ditch their private vehicle for a day and explore greener alternatives such as walking and cycling. 

The event served as a catalyst for residents to rediscover the charm of their neighborhood. By temporarily putting a pause on vehicular traffic, Hadigaun's streets were transformed into vibrant communal spaces. Families strolled, children played, and neighbors engaged in conversations, creating an atmosphere reminiscent of a bygone era when communities thrived on interpersonal connections.

Local businesses were encouraged to participate, setting up stalls and pop-up shops along the car-free streets.

Reclaiming Streets for People, on a weekly basis

By way of the World Carfree Day celebration, the neighborhood could catch glimpses of the first step towards Revitalising Hadigaun: a colorful mix of people from different age groups, genders, and socio-cultural backgrounds, all coming together and embracing the outdoors in new and creative ways.

DBI has been a part of the entire process and it’s not just about designing infrastructure – it’s about communities owning and reclaiming their space, participating in civic life, and creating a direct impact on how their public spaces look, function, and feel.

What started as a one-day event has now evolved into a weekly pilot program, signaling a collective commitment from residents to transform Hadigaun into a sustainable and eco-friendly haven. The event is now being piloted every Saturday to revive the cultural heritage of Hadigaun, initiate pedestrianization through Placemaking and bring more beauty into the life of the community by boosting social and environmental features. 

This transition from a one-time celebration to a recurring program showcases the deep-rooted dedication of Hadigaun's residents to reviving its identity and fostering a renewed sense of place. It signifies a broader shift in mindset—a move towards creating a neighborhood that values environmental and economic sustainability and community well-being.

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