When the monsoon rains start, the roads in the Kathmandu Valley look like muddy fields ready for paddy plantation
Perhaps moved by the tragic drowning of an 11-year-old school girl, Binita Phuyal, into a pit of a drain at Nepaltar on broad daylight Friday, Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba called a meeting of high level government officials at his office and instructed them to fix the dangerous pits and potholes in the city areas within 15 days.
The girl in school uniform carrying a bag on her back is seen in a video footage slowly crossing the flooded roads, watched by the traffic police and others, suddenly sinking into the whirlpool of a drain, terrifying the onlookers with no means to rescue her.
Phuyal’s body was recovered downstream of the swollen rivulet after an hour of scramble. Another girl Satya Sapkota had also fallen into the drainage pit at Samakhushi but she was rescued by locals after she managed to raise her hands along with her school bag.
These are two incidents which speak volumes about the pathetic conditions of the roads, drainage systems and poor security management. The school girls would not have encountered such horrifying incidents had the security personnel been deployed at vulnerable areas alerting the people from crossing the deep waters.
The PM is learnt to have expressed his serious concern about the sorry state of the roads and drainage systems during the meeting with senior government officials, who passed the buck on one government agency to the other and tried to escape from their core responsibilities.
Not only did the PM instruct the officials, but also pledged allocating budget to fix the problems through a special decision from his cabinet.
He also instructed the three government entities – Nepal Telecom, Nepal Electricity Authority and Department of Roads – to carry out their works in coordination with one another so that no roads are left with pits and potholes risking the life of motorists and pedestrians. When the monsoon rains start, the roads in the Kathmandu Valley look like muddy fields ready for paddy plantation.
Frustrated by the government apathy to repair the roads on time, locals of Thamel were also seen planting paddy in the middle of the busy roads. But the authorities concerned paid no attention to fix the problem.
Most of the roads in the Valley have now become a death trap, even for motorists, for lack of timely repairs and maintenance. The conditions of the roads have turned from bad to worse after the Melamchi Drinking Water Project started digging trenches to lay down water pipelines across the Valley.
The project did little to control dust and mud that have inflicted serious health problems to the Valley denizens. The problem does not end here. The Department of Road which started widening the busy road from Kalangki to Nagdhunga section has halted its work following the Supreme Court’s stay order over the locals’ litigation.
Such legal and logistics problem should be settled at the earliest so that the construction works can be completed on time.
All concerned government agencies must work out a coordinated plan of action ensuring that the construction work of every line ministry is accomplished without hampering others and the public.
The consumption of tobacco is one of the major causes of many non-communicable diseases.
An ideal way to discourage the use of such products is to increase the taxes imposed on them which appears to be working. Particularly the youths desist from smoking when the price of tobacco is made more expensive.
Nepal imposes a levy on tobacco products as health tax. It is the only country to do so in the South-East Asia region.
The tax imposed on tobacco in Nepal is low compared to the standards of the World Health Organization (WHO). Nepal imposes a tax of only 33.7 per cent on these against the recommended 70 per cent determined by the WHO.
As such, the raising of taxes on tobacco products can be an effective weapon to deal with the widespread consumption of tobacco products. Although most consumers are aware of the hazards of the effects of tobacco use they continue to smoke.
Meanwhile, the extra money that would accrue from the tax could be used for the treatment of cancer patients which could reach epidemic proportions if not dealt timely.
Quitting smoking makes people healthier and the healthcare costs could be met by imposing higher taxes for tobacco products.
A version of this article appears in print on July 18, 2017 of The Himalayan Times.
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