EDITORIAL: Safer flights

The government must form an independent commission from outside the ministry to make Nepal’s aviation sector safe, secure and trustworthy

For the last three years the country’s civil aviation status has remained unchanged when it comes to making the air accident investigations more credible and trustworthy.

The United Nations International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) had raised a red flag in 2013 citing non-compliance with ICAO protocol in eight critical areas including aircraft accident investigations.

As a result of the non-compliance of the conditions set by the international civil aviation body, the European Union blacklisted the Nepali airlines from flying in its skies in 2014. The global safety standard, according to an audit report, stands on an average at 54 percent.

But it is just 20 percent in Nepal’s case. The ICAO finding states that it is the officials at the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation who are responsible for aircraft accident investigations in Nepal.

But its investigation of any air accident that takes place in the country is unreliable and whatever investigation carried out and recommendation given to make further improvement on air safety issues are hardly implemented.

The ministry officials also embark on ICAO conferences without any updated reports about the measures taken to make Nepal’s sky safe on par with international standard.

This year alone, there were four commercial air transport accidents claiming the lives of five crew members and 25 passengers. This shows how serious the Nepali civil aviation sector has become and turned from bad to worse.

But the authorities concerned are least bothered about making the country’s air transport safe, reliable and trustworthy. The concerned ministry seems to be complacent with what has been going on in the civil aviation sector as it has not taken any serious steps to prevent more air accidents in the future.

A case in point is that a government official from the ministry recently took part in an ICAO conference in Tokyo, but did not share the country’s expertise about the measures taken to make Nepal’s civil aviation sector safe and secure.

This speaks volumes about how irresponsible the country’s officials concerned with air accident investigation wing are. The official did not even present an information paper at the conference, let alone presenting a plan about making Nepal’s sky safe.

Civil aviation experts believe that any investigation carried out by the ministry after an air accident is hogwash and farcical as the report lacks substance and credibility in itself. The Tokyo meeting pointed out the lack of an “independent investigation process”.

Investigation of any air accident is carried out by the ministry which is responsible for regulation and safety oversight of civil aviation.

ICAO has clearly stipulated that investigations of any aircraft accident should be conducted by an independent body outside the concerned ministry, an international practice which is lacking in Nepal’s case.

No desired results will come out after the air accident probe when the concerned minister oversees the CAAN board and constitutes the investigation commission. There exists a conflict of interest when such body is tasked with carrying out the air accident probes.

In order to avoid such inconsistency with the ICAO rules the government must form an independent commission from outside the ministry to make Nepal’s air sector safe, secure and trustworthy.

Model schools

The Ministry of Education (MoE) plans to develop 1,000 community schools into “model schools’ across the country within the next seven years as part of the School Sector Development Plan (SSDP) to improve school education.

Criteria have been set for the selection of schools for such development, and the selected schools will have better facilities, such as highly qualified teachers, good libraries, laboratories, hostels, subject-specific classrooms and separate head teachers.

The only fault with this plan is that there are many more community schools in the country which will not be thus favoured.

Will they be allowed to rot as in the present and the past? Such experiments have been done in the past too, but the quality of education in the community schools has continued to deteriorate.

That is why many community schools across the nation are having problems getting enrollments, and under this excuse, the government has already merged hundreds of community schools.