EDITORIAL: Road safety plan

Tourist buses rarely meet with accidents as their drivers follow the traffic rules and do not carry more passengers than their carrying capacity

The Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport (MoPIT) has come up with a five-year Strategic Plan for the Development of Road, Rail and Transportation for Prosperous Nepal (2016-2020).

The strategy plan has proposed road safety audit which will be conducted in all stages – from design to construction and upgradation stage. The plan claims that it is a systematic process for checking road safety implementation of highways improvements and new road schemes.

The key objective of the plan is to minimize road accidents and their severity. According to traffic police figure, over 2000 people lose their lives across the country in road accidents which is one of the highest in the world.

Poor visibility at blind corners, inadequate safety barriers, unscientific location of passing bays, drivers’ negligence, drink-driving, random roadside parking, poor condition of roads, lack of awareness of traffic rules, poor road engineering and design, among others, are blamed for fatal road accidents.

Most of the road accidents occur in the hilly and mountainous regions as the roads built there are narrow and do not meet the required standard.

According to the Department of Roads, the road density in Nepal is among the lowest in South Asia. Of the total 12,493 kilometre length of the roads, about half of them are blacktopped, 36 percent are earthen and 13 percent are gravelled.

Many of the roads built on the hilly areas are not suitable for public use and during the rainy seasons. Traffic police are nowhere to be seen in the rural and isolated areas where chances of road accidents are very high due to poor condition of roads and drivers’ negligence.

Once the roads come into operation the government is the least bothered about repairing them on time, and some of the strategic bridges, including the one crossing the Trishuli River in Mungling, are in a dilapidated condition.

If the suspension bridge over the river breaks down the links between Kathmandu-Pokhara and Chitwan will be cut off via land route.

The strategic plan states that all measures for road accident reduction will be compulsorily adopted for enhanced road safety as per the recommendations of Nepal Road Safety Action Plan (2013-2020). All stakeholders need to follow the action plan to improve and manage road safety in an integrated manner.

Data show that the road accidents account for 2-3 percent of the GDP, which means a loss of over Rs. 5 billion every year as a result of road accidents. It is immeasurable how much income loss and trauma the family members face when one of their family members dies in a road accident.

On the other hand, the government rarely launches inquiries whenever fatal road accidents occur.

One of the preconditions for road safety is to ensure timely repairs to the existing roads and make sure that all the vehicles, particularly the public ones, are in good condition and that the drivers strictly follow the traffic rules.

Studies have also shown that tourist buses rarely meet with accidents as their drivers follow the traffic rules and do not carry more passengers than their carrying capacity. Traffic police and drivers can greatly help minimize road accidents.

Deal with stigma

In Nepal ovarian and cervical cancer are the leading causes of death of female cancer patients. According to the figures provided by the World Health Organization as many as seven per cent female cancer victims die from ovarian cancer and 18 per cent from cervical cancer.

Experts say that these forms of cancer are hereditary. Therefore, women should be undertaking check-ups at regular intervals for these diseases. If detected early these forms of cancer can be cured. Sadly, there is a stigma about these diseases and women do not seek early treatment, and when they do so it becomes too late to save their life.

Bleeding and failing to conceive after four or five years also are among the symptoms of cancer. These diseases afflict mostly young women and unmarried young girls.

As one of the symptoms of cancer is failure to conceive, many women find they have these diseases only after they marry. Moreover, women who should be having regular checkups fail to do so as they fear that their husband would marry another woman as they fail to conceive.

These fallacies should be dealt with by raising awareness in the society.