Participatory Planning in a Federal Setting of Nepal: New Trends of Participation During the COVID-19 Pandemic
The spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), or simply the COVID-19, has impacted the mode of participatory practices in Nepal. My research investigates these new trends and the challenges of participation in local level planning process in one of the Nepal’s Municipalities during the pandemic. The analysis focuses on the structure and function of Nepal’s decentralized planning process, amid COVID-19 pandemic in Bhuddhabhumi Municipality, of Kapilvastu District in Nepal. It questions, how the fear of the coronavirus led to invent changes in mode of participation in municipal annual planning? The study focuses on the three new trends: 1) the postponement of the participatory processes, 2) enhanced participation by community-based organizations, and 3) the adaptation of participation through virtual networks. While all these new trends are in place, yet the exceptional nature of the COVID-19 crisis has generated new forms of vulnerability to the marginalised communities. The disproportionate effects of COVID-19 Pandemic was observed in women, and excluded groups which worsened the already existing gender and socio-economic inequalities. The paper also questions the planners’ capacity to ensure participation of the marginalized communities, to address the uneven effects of the pandemic. Thus, this study strives to evaluate the effect of local restructuring brought by federalism, on the mobilization of local public resources during the pandemic. It brings new social realities of participatory practices during health crises like COVID-19.