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Gov’t’s failure to implement laws and shoddy infrastructure sees fatal road accidents spike in Nepal

Sep 01 2016 | 10:38 am

bus accidentKathmandu: At least 11 people were killed when a jeep carrying double the number of passengers than its capacity veered off the road in Nepal’s western district of Arghakhanchi on Sunday, stoking concerns of rising instances of traffic accidents in the region.

Such accidents have become increasingly common these days in the Himalayan country, with more than 50 people having already lost their lives in deadly road accidents in less than two weeks.

On Aug. 15, 29 people were killed in two separate fatal accidents including 26 in a single crash involving a bus in the Kavrepalanchowk district, which borders the capital.

Officials said the accident was also due to the vehicle carrying more passengers than its capacity, as well as being overloaded with heavy goods.

Just one week later, another accident occurred involving a passenger bus, which veered off a road and plunged into a river, along the Kathmandu-Narayangadh section, killing 22 people.

The road from which the bus careened into the Trishuli River had been under-construction in the past few months, traffic officials said.

According to the Nepal Police, nearly 150 people have been killed in the past month in the country with more than 600 accidents recorded, with the latest statistics being evidence of the dangers of Nepal’s public transportation system, which is increasingly posing risks to the lives of citizens here.

The rising death tolls have sparked outrage from public officials and citizens, who have lambasted the government for focusing predominantly on “action-less-commitments,” observers have said.

CPN UML leader Rabindra Adhikari, who tabled a motion of public importance about frequent fatal road accidents in parliament on Sunday, told Xinhua, “Road accidents are taking the lives of five people per day on average.”

“The death toll statistics in the last four years are higher than that of the lives lost during the ten-year-long Civil War period. It’s a critical issue so the state must regard this issue seriously,” Rabindra Adhikari maintained, adding that the country needs to implement new laws and better enforce the existing ones in order to save the lives of innocent people.

Most of the roads in Nepal are just a single lane and and too narrow, making it difficult for drivers to overtake, with public vehicles on rural roads in this mountainous country often carrying double or triple the legal number of passengers.

Despite different official bodies existing to monitor and upgrade the condition of Nepal’s roads, the responsible departments have been inert when it comes to dealing with the ongoing irregularities with the country’ overall transportation system.

“The volume of vehicles and the numbers of passengers have risen to beyond the capacity of the country’s roads and permits have been distributed irresponsibly by the authorities, with some drivers lacking the required training,” Chudamani BK, a member of the General Federation of Nepalese Trade Unions, told Xinhua.

It’s unsettling that the state, which is supposed to be responsible for protecting lives, is not fully functional in implementing its own laws,” the trade union member, who has also worked as a driver for 22 years, said.

Though millions of rupees are allocated for the construction and upgrading of roads during budget announcements every fiscal year, road infrastructure has not been expanding commensurate with the ever-increasing burden of more vehicles and passengers using the roads.

The problems being caused by an insubstantial transport infrastructure and exacerbated by an influx of vehicles and passengers, are also being compound by public transportation companies not complying with the terms and conditions issued on route permits.

During the two-hour-long discussion in the House session about road fatalities on Sunday, most of the members of parliament advocated for controlling irregularities in the transport system known as “syndicate”, another major reason for road accidents.

The syndicate system refers to the tendency of preventing the healthy growth of the transportation sector by not allowing new entrepreneurs to enter the market and operate similar transportation services. While under Nepalese law syndicates of any sort are illegal, the government has been unable to fully combat this issue.

“Even the government is under control of a few syndicate operators. The syndicate system must be wiped out,” UML leader Adhikari told Xinhua.

Beside poor roads, weak laws and the syndicate system, experts also point to the unscientific design of the road networks as being another major factor contributing to the increasing numbers of accidents. They have highlighted the fact that roads constructed in Nepal are full of engineering faults.

Dr. Shivajee Yadav, a retired civil engineer who specialized in mountainous roads’ drainage systems, underscored the problems involved with the geometry of the country’s road planning.

“Most of the roads in Nepal lack a geometric design and the roads have been constructed without using scientific technology. The initial approach and the framework used during construction are satisfactory but the results are precarious,” the expert told Xinhua.

“Outdated vehicles and aged drivers are often blamed for fatalities in our country and they are secondary reasons for the rise in accidents. Firstly, however, our roads need to be better maintained and kept in top condition,” Dr. Yadav, who worked in the Department of Roads for 15 years, added.

While the roads in the capital have been newly constructed and are comparatively better than those the past, accidents are still on the rise. In the Nepalese fiscal year 2072-73 that ended in mid-July, 5,668 accidents were reported in total by the Traffic Police.

During that period, 166 people lost their lives in Kathmandu valley alone, with 4,000 people sustaining injuries.

Superintendent of Police, Lokendra Bahadur Malla, the Metropolitan Traffic Police Division Spokesperson, told Xinhua, “In the valley, most of the accidents occur due to reckless driving. To minimize this we have imposed hefty fines for changing lanes haphazardly and for drinking and driving. We have also prioritized raising public awareness.”

Whether in or outside of the valley, to mitigate accidents and protect the lives of drivers and passengers traveling along both long and short routes, the consensus among experts is that it is high time the Nepalese government more strictly implement its traffic and transportation laws to better ensure public safety.

Panipokhari

Kathmandu, Nepal

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