EDITORIAL:First good step

The government’s decision to take all commercial vehicles older than twenty years off the roads of the Kathmandu Valley from March 1 (yesterday) is a welcome step that will help reduce the air pollution of the valley, as well as removing the risks involved in the running of rickety vehicles, including that of accidents and traffic congestions.

These ancient vehicles include buses, minibuses, microbuses, pickups, cabs and other motor vehicles bearing black licence plates. This ban had been approved by the Cabinet two years ago but the Department of Transport Management (DoTM) decided to start at the eleventh hour.

The total number of such vehicles in the valley is put at 2,500. Very old vehicles also consume a lot of petrol or diesel and cost much more for maintenance.

As motor vehicles account for 40 percent of the air pollution in the Kathmandu Valley, measures aimed at ensuring that the vehicles on the road emit minimum smokes will significantly help fight the air pollution in the valley which is reported to be at least five times as much as the safe level.

This ban in the valley is the first phase of removing ancient vehicles from the roads in the rest of the country. Indeed, it would not be fair and environment-friendly to allow highly-polluting ancient vehicles to ply outside the capital.

The department is reported to aim to apply this measure outside the valley by mid-March 2018. After that, ageing private motor vehicles would, naturally, come under the hammer, too. The ban on old vehicles also provides that the ownership of those vehicles registered in the Bagmati zone cannot be transferred nor will they be allowed to operate outside the valley.

That means those rickety vehicles can only be sold as scrap. The transport entrepreneurs have protested against the ban, saying that the government has not done enough homework for it. This argument is not strong as twenty years is a long life for a vehicle.

The government could also introduce standards for roadworthiness of vehicles for Nepal, including their accepted levels of pollution. It is also a long time in which to recover the cost of the vehicle and make a fat profit.

While talking of the 20-year age limit for vehicles, it is also important that the government should introduce international emission standards even for new vehicles to meet.

The government should also require vehicle owners – private, commercial and institutional – to maintain their vehicles according to the standards set and any failure in this regard should be penalized.

Questions of compensation for the removal of ancient vehicles should not arise, as nobody can expect to run their vehicles for any number of years or in any condition, risking public safety and interests. The government should consider improving the capital’s public transport system as a whole, which should include factors such as fuel efficiency, emission level, and cost.

It should also seriously considering introducing other better alternative means of public transport, such as electric vehicles, trolley buses, and monorail, which are best for the environment, as well as being cheaper. But, for now, the government should first effectively put all 20-year old vehicles off the roads.

Election code

The Election Commission (EC) has issued a code of conduct for May 14 local level elections that came into force from yesterday.

The code of conduct will be applicable to the government and its officials, security bodies, media outlets, political parties and their candidates and I/NGOs. The EC has warned of taking strong action against those violating the code.

However, the government can transfer or depute its employees under special circumstances.

EC held a joint meeting of the registered political parties on Tuesday and informed them that any candidate who violates the code will either be fined or barred from contesting elections for the next five years or both.

The code also bars the ministers from visiting villages/towns except the district headquarters. The past experiences have, however, showed that most of the codes are rarely abided by the major political parties, especially regarding election expenditure.

A candidate spends much more than what has been allowed by the code. The details of expenditure submitted by a candidate after the polls do not match with the actual amount spent by the candidate.

A scientific system must be developed to bar a candidate from spending more than the ceiling.