EDITORIAL: Not enough

Road widening alone can help solve the traffic snarls of the valley to a limited extent only

It has been realized that road expansion alone is not helpful in dealing with the traffic congestion in the Kathmandu Valley. Currently, road widening drives are being carried out at various locations, but they have proved to be inadequate as the numbers of vehicles are increasing at an increasing level. The reasonable way to deal with the traffic jams would be having more bigger buses operating public transport. This would mean that there would be less smaller vehicles plying on the roads, which is one reason why the roads are getting congested. As per a report ‘Inclusive Cities: Resilient Communities’, it would make more sense to invest in public transport that is not receiving the attention that it deserves. Widening the roads in itself is not the solution to the ever increasing traffic snarls in the valley.

In a bid to deal with the crowded roads, Sajha Yatyat, a transport cooperative mainly owned by the government, resumed transport services in 2013 with 16 large buses operating to help ease traffic congestion. More buses have been added and there are now further plans to add more of them to its fleet so that its service can be be expanded. Taking a cue from this public enterprise, some private companies too have started services by operating larger buses.  The introduction of more new large buses should thus be seen in a positive light. This sector could do well with additional investments made for its expansion in other urban areas of the country as well and not only in the capital. Road widening alone can help solve the traffic snarls of the valley to a limited extent only. Other modes of transport such as monorail and cable cars should be considered too.But the biggest single factor in reducing the transport congestion in the capital would be to expand and deliver many services from other many centres of the country as well, so that people from around the country may not have to come all the way to the capital to have even a small piece of business done here. With the more powers given to the local levels and the newly created provinces, it is expected that the unbearable pressure of population in the capital would ease in the future.

We are in dire need of a well managed urban transport system and judicious use of land in order to deal effectively with this predicament. The need for more public spaces is also not dealt with adequately. By managing the transport system very well, it is possible to see more robust social and economic activities. Developing transport alone would not help unless we are able to integrate this with use of the land. Planned urbanization requires that there be such an integration. With the election of the local level the onus is on elected representatives to take the necessary remedial measures so that their municipalities see healthy and sustainable urban growth. Since the root of the problem is unplanned urban growth, there should be proper planning in several sectors and transport is one such important sector. Therefore, it would be unwise to believe that the road expansion drives alone would alleviate the various problems seen in the transport sector at present.

Improve services

Chief and deputy chiefs of the rural and urban municipalities issued a 14-point Dhulikhel Declaration at the end of a three-day orientation organized by the Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development. The declaration has, among others, given high priority to facilitate the post-earthquake reconstruction works in the districts hit hard by the 2015 quakes. The remaining task of the reconstruction work is expected to take momentum as people will be in touch with the elected leaders regularly and they will act as a bridge between the National Reconstruction Authority and the local communities who are still living in makeshifts for want of government assistance and raw materials required for building the damaged houses, drinking facilities, schools and health posts.

The elected representatives can also play a supportive role in generating employment opportunity by better utilizing the locally available resources, means and skills and encouraging the locals to make investment in small scale cottage industries protected by the government from foreign direct investment. Such small and cottage industries, if well planned and executed, can bring about positive changes in the country’s economy and life of the rural communities. Health and education are other key areas where the elected leaders must devote their time and energy.