Nepal | May 30, 2020

Nepal’s glaring road problems

Political leadership is indifferent to 2,000 lives claimed by road accidents annually across the country

Rastriya Samachar Samiti
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Kathmandu, April 21

It has been three years since the meeting of the Council of Ministers decided to form a Road Safety Council, and four years have passed since efforts were made to introduce the Road Safety Bill, but to no avail.

The number of road accidents in the country is increasing alarmingly owing to various reasons. One among them is the absence of stringent legal measures related to road safety. Besides, laxity prevails in the implementation of existing laws and regulations.

The UN General Assembly held on 12 April 2017 had taken up the resolution under Agenda 12, to make roads and travel safer, ensure post-accident rescue and care, and reduce deaths by half by 2020 as mentioned in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Nepal has also pledged its commitment towards the UN goal. However, cases of road accidents continue to grow unabated annually.

Three line ministers have assumed office since the decision was taken to form the Road Safety Council, but no concrete efforts have been made.

Given this dilly-dallying, the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport has sent a draft relating to the formation of Road Safety Council and its operation procedure to the Council of Ministers to expedite work, according to senior divisional engineer at the MoPIT Govinda Prasad Kharel.

“Our neighbouring countries have formed such a council and achieved good results in the sector of road safety,” said Kharel, adding that the concept of the council came into being to formulate related bills and streamline and monitor the road safety sector.

Parliamentarian Deela Shangraula Panta had registered a proposal on the issue of public importance on January 8, calling for discussion on road safety.

Proposals were also presented, discussed and approved for the formation of Road Safety Council, introduction of driver awareness campaign, determination of clear criteria for road and rules for pedestrians.

Statistics of Nepal Police show that 8,982 persons were killed in 40,777 road accidents across the country over a period of five years since 2013. Seven people are killed in road accidents every day in Nepal and on an average, 2,000 people are killed in road accidents every year.

The UN in 2004 had constituted the UN Road Safety Collaboration with the World Health Organisation with a view to improving road safety on a global level. In 2009, the UN had published a study report about the road safety. As for Nepal, MoPIT in 2012 had  issued, Nepal Road Safety Action Plan.

Moreover, the UN had announced the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020 which aims to address the road safety issues globally by reducing road accidents by 50 per cent. Though the government formulated the action plan as per the call of the UN, its implementation is weak, admits one of the officials in the ministry. According to the official, despite the initiation and efforts from bureaucracy for effective enforcement of the action plan, the issue is yet to become a priority for political leadership.

“Road safety is yet to get due attention of the political leadership and the Road Safety Council which was to be formed by the Council of Minister in 2016, but is yet to be formed. This is a testimony that people in authority are not serious about the road safety issues,” said the ministry official.

Ramesh Lekhak was the line minister at the time.  He was followed by Bir Bahadur Balayar and presently Raghubir Mahaseth assumes the post.  The sitting minister earlier in the House of Representatives meeting and the meeting of the HoR’s Development and Technology Committee had pledged to bring the bill on road safety before the third session of the House.

Gopilal Nepal, chief of Law Section at MoPIT, said the ministry had on  April 14 held a policy level discussion to enact the bill.  Feedback regarding it has been demanded from stakeholders and the document will be sent to the Ministry of Law for further action once suggestions are received.

The draft will be presented to the Council of Ministers after it gets an approval from the law ministry. Once the Council of Ministers approves it, the bill will be registered at the Parliament Secretariat for discussion in the House.

The UN worldwide figure shows that on overage 3,000 people are killed in road accidents every day and the annual data is counted at over million (1.3 million).

 


A version of this article appears in print on April 22, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.


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