In this age of mobile phones, the passengers should take the initiative to alert the traffic cops about any tendency by the drivers to overspeed or overload
Given the frequency with which fatal accidents involving public vehicles are taking place in the country, long distance travel is likely to cause some jitters. Vehicular accidents have become so routine on the highways in both the hills and the plains that they have failed to raise eyebrows among the public unless it is of a kind involving many deaths. One such accident in Masta Rural Municipality in the hill district of far west Bajhang on Monday took the lives of at least nine people, including the driver. The jeep is said to have skidded off the road after the driver lost control before getting stuck on a slope. It is apparent that the jeep was carrying passengers beyond its capacity, which means the accident could have been avoidable. In another fatal accident that day, one passenger was killed and 31 others were injured when a bus plunged onto the river bank in Bara in south central Nepal.
Controlling highway accidents in both the hills and plains poses a huge challenge as the road network expands and the number of vehicles jumps by leaps and bounds. There are many reasons why accidents occur in Nepal, many times more than in neighbouring countries with similar geographical conditions. Overspeeding and cramming vehicles with as many passengers as possible are the major causes. Other reasons include trying to overtake vehicles, mechanical failure and the poor condition of our roads, caused by little or no maintenance. Besides them, jaywalkers, both people and stray animals, have provoked many accidents on the highways, especially in the Tarai plains. Many an accident could have been circumvented if only the driver had been a little more careful and not resorted to rash driving.
Every year, around 2,200 people lose their lives in accidents involving different types of vehicles in Nepal, the highest in South Asia. The number of injured is much higher, with some maimed for life. This should be a matter of serious concern not only to the pubic but the authorities as well. In a bus accident, it’s usually the poor people who are the victims. And the death of a person could take away the sole bread winner of the family. The driver apart, if we are really serious about preventing avoidable accidents, then the traffic police will have to up its vigilance while the passengers must also be alert not to allow the driver to take their safety for granted. In this age of mobile phones, the passengers should take the initiative to alert the traffic cops about any tendency by the drivers to over-speed or carry passengers beyond the capacity of the vehicle. If necessary, heavy penalties will need to be introduced to implement the traffic rules very strictly. This will be all the more necessary as the length of autobahns increases in different parts of the country, and there is a tendency to overspeed, flouting the traffic rules. In view of the ever increasing road accidents, it is time to mull over the adequacy of the vehicular testing procedures that one must pass to get a driving license. Given Nepal’s difficult terrain, we also need laws to see that only dedicated and highly skilled drivers with many years of experience are behind the wheel.
Save the lake
The constitution has given immense power to the local levels. They can bring about a sea change in society if they make good investment in conserving the local resources, including lakes and ponds, which play a vital role in conserving the local environment and boosting tourism. They need to allocate a certain portion of their annual budget to protect public property, which will ultimately benefit the local communities. Kaski is known as a lake district as there are many water bodies within a short distance. Gunde Lake in Pokhara Metropolis is, however, on the verge of extinction, thanks to the local community’s apathy towards its protection.
Local resources, such as lakes, public land and forests, cannot be kept intact or protected from human encroachment unless the locals themselves take bold initiatives for their upkeep. The lake is spread over 12.38 hectares of land and is about two metres deep. But it has been shrinking every year due to heavy deposit of sediment from landslides from the surrounding hills and human encroachment. This lake can be developed as a major fishery centre and a tourist destination provided the locals and the metropolis join hands to preserve it.
A version of this article appears in print on June 19, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.