S1: Smart and Sustainable Urban Development in Nepal

Draft Symposium Program Outline and Schedule
Third NRN Global Knowledge Convention
October 17 and 18, 2023
Soaltee Hotel, Kathmandu, Nepal, and by Virtual Connection

An Overview

The symposium “Smart and Sustainable Urban Development in Nepal” will assess existing challenges and opportunities related to urban planning, management, and development in Nepal, and recommend policies, programs and implementation mechanisms towards achieving smart and sustainable urban development in the country. Focus areas will include review of current problems, policies for streamlining the urbanization process, creating smart cities, improving urban governance, planning tools and methods, creating urban transit and transportation, planning for public open spaces, and creating resiliency related to disasters and challenges such as those caused by climate change, earthquake and pandemics. It will review how Nepal’s urban development programs fit with UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 11– Sustainable Cities and Communities.


This symposium “Sustainable Urban Development in Nepal”, as a part of the two-day NRNA-organized Second Global Knowledge Convention in Kathmandu, Nepal during October 2023. It will provide a platform for the diaspora and Nepali scholars, professionals and practitioners to present their research findings and experience and discuss the topics related to urbanization process Nepal. The symposium will be conducted in a hybrid fashion combining presentations done remotely and physically at the venue. The theme of the symposium is to provide assessments of the current situation related to Nepal’s urbanization and offer practical policy recommendations related to sustainable urban growth and development in Nepal that are aligned to UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (2015) Number 11: “Sustainable Cities and Communities”. The policy recommendations from the symposium will be provided to the appropriate agencies of the Government of Nepal and relevant Nepali institutions for their review, reference, and action.

Urban Development in Nepal

Urbanization is important for the economic development and prosperity of a country, as they are the economic engines for all regions. Cities also generate a vast amount of waste and pollution. They account for more than 70 percent of greenhouse gases that cause greenhouse gases. Thus, management of urbanization in Nepal is important in Nepal both to ensure economic advancement and limit pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

According to the data from the national census in 2021, the percentage of classified urban dwellers increased from 17% in 2011 to more than 66% in 2021 (CBS, 2021) with an increase in the number of municipalities from 217 to 293 in 2017. However, a World Bank Report (Muzzini, E. and G. Aparicio, 2013) states that Nepal remains the least urbanized country in South Asia. World Bank (The World Bank 2018) data shows the Nepal’s urban population in 2018 was only 20 percent of the total. The Nepali government’s official definition of new urban areas is controversial because many important criteria such as urban infrastructure and services, open space, population density and economic viability are not thoroughly addressed in the definition. It seems that Nepal’s official definition of urban settlements does not seem to meet international norms. In Nepal, the definition of what is urban has frequently changed in the past six decades. To be classified as an urban area, there are different requirements in different geographic (ecological) regions of Nepal.

While there is no single universally accepted definition for urban areas, each country uses its own criteria to define what are urban and rural areas. A combination of the criteria generally regarded as good indicators for defining an urban area includes the following factors.

  • Population density.
  • Total population.
  • Availability of urban infrastructure and services (e.g., roads, water supply, storm water, wastewater, electricity).
  • Availability of services and amenities, e.g., parks, open space, transit, communication services, institutions of higher
  • education, government services, financial services, hospitality services, public and private services, and health services.
  • Employment opportunities in primary sectors such as service, manufacturing trade, export.
  • The area covered by the footprint of buildings is the percentage of the total geographic area of the settlement.
  • Intensity of building development in the area, often measured by the Floor Area Ratio (FAR).

A comprehensive definition of “urban” was created by the European Union in collaboration with International Labor Organization (ILO), Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Overseas Development the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), UN Habitat, and the World Bank European Union 2021, European Commission 2020). Although an unplanned and organic growth of urban areas generally works well, lack of coordinated planning for infrastructure to support the growth can lead to problems. The current urban growth in Nepal is mostly happening without adequate infrastructure capacity in facilities such as roads, transit, water supply, storm drainage, and sewerage. This is negatively impacting economic development, and quality of life for the people. Some large Nepali cities such as the ones in Kathmandu valley have well-developed plans, but most newly developed urban areas in the country lack the planning for infrastructure, services, and development.

Symposium Chair and Co-Chair
Chair: Ambika P. Adhikari, DDes., AICP, Distinguished Adjunct Fellow, IIDS (Nepal), Phoenix, AZ, USA. (ambika@alum.mit.edu)
Co-Chair: Sunil Babu Shrestha, Dr. Eng, P. Eng., Academician, and Former Vice Chancellor, NAST, Kathmandu, Nepal.(sunilbabushrestha@gmail.com)

List of CV of Session Chair