World tourism day: Pollution-free ride for tourists soon

Kathmandu, September 24:

An environment-friendly transport system, meant solely for the tourists, is being introduced for the first time in Nepal.

“The official launching of the electric vehicles, which will cater to the tourists, is scheduled for September 27 — the World Tourism Day,” said Umesh Shrestha, managing director, Shree Eco Visionary Pvt Ltd (SEVPL).

On this day, select tourists, upon their arrival at the Tribhuvan International Airport, will be ferried in these vehicles to their destinations for free.

SEVPL, a leading EV-manufacturing company in Nepal, is joining hands with the Explore Nepal and other tourism entrepreneurs to provide EV transport services to the tourists. Three-wheelers and four-wheelers EVs manufactured by the SEVPL will be operated for sight-seeing in the Valley, airport-to-hotel transport and other shuttle services.

Small Grant Programme of the UNDP and Global Environment Facility, Kathmandu Electric Vehicle Alliance (KEVA), Swiss Development Corporation (SDC), USAID and Clean Air Network Nepal (CANN) are supporting this initiative.

Vehicular emission is considered the major cause for deteriorating air quality in major cities of Nepal, including Kathmandu. Kathmandu is one of those polluted Asian cities that needs to make serious efforts to improve air quality. Adverse health impacts of air pollution have become a serious concern for local residents and tourists.

Coordinator of the CANN Gopal Raj Joshi said a study conducted by the KEVA and Kathmandu Environment Education Project in 2005 found that nearly 59 per cent tourists identified vehicular emission as the number one environmental problem in Kathmandu.

Sixty-nine per cent of the tourists said air quality in Kathmandu is very poor. “Because of poor air quality, the visibility in Kathmandu has been significantly reduced, thus lowering the chances for sight-seeing and mountain-viewing,” he said.

According to the survey, 94 per cent tourists preferred electric vehicles and 79 per cent expressed their willingness to pay more for EV services.

The use of EVs in tourism sector will convey a positive message to the international community. This can also be used as a marketing tool.

“To promote this initiative, tourism entrepreneurs, tourist and local people need motivation and support from the authority concerned,” Shrestha said.

Electric vehicles have been promoted in Nepal for the past 10 years as a means to control vehicular emission. At present, over 650 SAFA tempos — battery-operated three- wheelers — are operating on the Valley roads.