Out with the old
What fate awaits 20 years old and older public vehicles banned from the roads of the Capital?
The Department of Transport Management (DoTM) has started removing vehicles that are 20 years or older from Kathmandu Valley since March 1. The ban on old motor vehicles was approved by the Cabinet two years ago saying that old vehicles play a major role in air pollution, environmental degradation, traffic congestion and road accidents. Along with that, the old vehicles also use up more fuel and have high maintenance cost. The department has strictly enforced the ban on them from plying the roads of the Valley and has also stopped all processes of renewing old vehicles, registration and collecting taxes from them. In the first phase, vehicles which are more than 20 years old are banned (effective March 1) from operating in Kathmandu, and the ban would be gradually extended to other major cities across the country.
Steps to improvement
According to Tokraj Pandey, Spokesperson at the DoTM, old public vehicles have strictly been banned. He said, “We, together with the Metropolitan Traffic Police Division have already started investigation to monitor the implementation of the rule.” He also informed that the rule applies to old buses, mini-buses, micro-buses, taxies, pick-ups and other vehicles bearing black licence plates. “If found, the vehicle will be confiscated and actions will be taken against the owner,” he added.
Bishnu Prasad Sharma, Information Officer at Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport also said, “The traffic police have been informed and we have coordinated with them to ensure that the rule is implemented strictly.”
Kathmandu was recently ranked as one of the most polluted cities in South Asia. According to DoTM, motor vehicle exhaust accounts for 40 per cent of the air pollution in Kathmandu. The 700 kilometres of roads in the valley are plied upon by over 9 lakh motorbikes, 2 lakh private cars, 30,000 taxis, 40,000 buses and trucks, and 50,000 government and semi-government vehicles. As of now, the government has instigated the process of banning only old public vehicles to make sure that the decision is executed properly, and also because private vehicles are maintained better and they are on the streets infrequently. According to Pandey, the department will be implementing the decision
gradually to make it easier for all stakeholders.
“We have also informed the Traffic Police that if the old vehicles are found running, the guilty must be detained and the vehicle cast into junkyard,” said Sharma.
According to findings made public by the World Health Organisation in September 2016, Kathmandu has at least three times more suspended particulate matter in the air than the level specified by them. Most of it is due to the old engines of vehicles plying on the road.
As per Jagadish Bhakta Shrestha, former Director General of Department of Environment, the ban on old vehicles must be taken positively. “Kathmandu is one of the most polluted cities in the world, so the step taken by the government to remove vehicles which are older than 20 years is significant. The pollution and congestion caused by Kathmandu’s ageing vehicles is no secret,” he said. “But instead of replacing them with new fuel-run vehicles, the government must consider environment-friendly vehicles,” he added.
The decision to ban the old vehicles was aimed mainly at cleaning up the air in the Kathmandu Valley, but the government’s plan had been repeatedly put off due to strong opposition from transport entrepreneurs. According to transport entrepreneurs, the ban would put drivers out of work and create new problems. They believe that pollution is not caused just by the old vehicles, but more because of adulterated fuel and bad roads.
Transport entrepreneurs have demanded up to 75 per cent waiver on custom duties and applicable taxes on purchase of new vehicles that would displace the old vehicles. The President of Nepal Transport Entrepreneurs’ National Federation, Dolnath Khanal said, “We have demanded a waiver in custom duties and applicable taxes on purchase of new vehicles that would displace the old ones.”
According to Khanal, they demanded this as billions of investment of the nation would go to waste while displacing old vehicles, and purchasing new ones. The government has decided to waive certain duty for the owners if they wished to purchase new vehicles to replace the old ones.
The other story
One of the many victims of the ban Pushpa Raj Sunuwar, who used to drive a mini-bus he bought in 1987, said, “Our vehicles are better maintained because they’re our only means of income. Instead of throwing them away, the government should concentrate on supplying unadulterated fuel, and providing the owners with a financial backing for maintenance.”
Raman Tiwari, a taxi driver from Baneshwore said, “When we buy a taxi, we do so on loan. But when the government excercises bans like these, the vehicles get removed from the road without compensation. We sell it in parts for very little money and again seek loans to buy new models.” The government, however, say that there is no other option but to scrap such vehicles.
Meanwhile, the authorities concerned feel there is no need to compensate the owners of vehicles that have been condemned as they have recovered their costs. “We will reissue route permits if the owners get replacements, but reissuing the route permit does not mean making adjustments to the previous one” said Pandey.
Back in 1999 when the diesel-run Bikram tempos were banned, they were replaced by electric tempos, but the ones which were banned were sent to other cities in Tarai. This time however, the government has no plans to relocate these vehicles outside Kathmandu Valley; all such banned vehicles will be sold to metal purchasers. The decision will be implemented in Kathmandu Valley in the first phase, and once all the old vehicles are removed from Kathmandu’s roads, the campaign would start in other parts of the country.
According to Pandey, the old vehicles registered in Bagmati Zone will not be permitted to operate elsewhere in the country. He further said they have issued a circular to all Zonal Transport Offices, so that the ownership of such vehicles cannot be transferred. The DoTM aims to remove old vehicles from across the country by mid-March 2018, thereafter they will apply the rule to out-of-date private vehicles.
Federal President, Nepal Transport Entrepreneurs’ National Federation
Jagadish Bhakta Shrestha
Former Director General, Department of Environment