Make clear policy

Taxis are one of the important modes of urban transport. The government, meanwhile, has been imposing a ban on the import of taxis for the last 15 years. Some believe that there is a need for more taxis and the Department of Transport Management (DoTM) has been instructed to permit the registration of 2,800 new taxis, including 500 deluxe taxis. Priority is to be provided to the owners of old taxis now off the roads to register the cabs as well as those hit by the recent devastating earthquakes. Now quake-hit families with driving licences of four-wheelers can also register for normal taxis while the companies would be allowed to purchase the deluxe ones. Quotas have been fixed for all three groups. If the deluxe taxis work out, there are plans to introduce an additional 500 super deluxe taxis. All this is fine, but the increasing vehicles plying on the capital’s roads has given rise to increasing congestion.

The new provision has a shortcoming. It does not allocate quotas for members of the general public to own and operate new taxis

There are insufficient roads to accommodate all the vehicles, so it would be advisable to reduce them.

So the government should be thinking about decreasing the number of vehicles and discouraging the syndicate system that controls the Valley’s routes, making it extremely difficult for the non-members to enter the market. Moreover, it is found that most taxi drivers do not charge as per the readings of the meters, but they bargain for high charges, and the gullible or desperate passengers have no alternative but to pay. At a time when vehicular emissions are polluting the city it stands to reason that the number of vehicles plying on the roads should be reduced to the minimum. Furthermore, the tempos running on subsidized cooking gas should be banned but electricity driven tempos and even vehicles encouraged. Micro-buses and mini-buses should be discouraged as they contribute more to traffic congestion and more big public buses, such as 4—seaters, should be introduced. Moreover, overcrowding is common in public transport. Seats are removed in order to create more standing room, making commuting very uncomfortable. New Sajha buses should provide a good model to follow.

The new provision has a shortcoming. It does not allocate quotas for members of the general public to own and operate new taxis. That quake victims can keep 500 new taxis is a right priority but the true victims should get the facility. Despite the road-widening drive in the capital common traffic snarls make life difficult for the people. Encouraging even well-to-do people to use public transport would not be possible unless a sufficient number of public vehicles, convenient frequency and better quality of services, and their easy availability on all routes are ensured. Buses with 40 seats or so can ply wide roads while smaller vehicles such as micros and tempos can provide services to the people along narrow or inner city roads. Syndicates operate on all of the Valley’s routes, and this has come in the way of providing better vehicles, better services to the public. Syndication must be drastically curtailed too if the Kathmandu Valley’s public transport system is to be considerably improved by making it easier for new competitors to enter the fray.

Children at risk

Monsoon rains are a boon for agriculture, particularly for paddy plantation. Less precipitation in some parts of the country has made farmers worried as they have not been able to plant the crop on time while torrential rains in other parts have inundated the field prepared for plantation. The rains may be a bane for some people, especially the children of the quake affected areas where sanitation condition is very poor as the affected families are living in makeshifts and lack access to clean drinking water. It is the children who are at risk of water-borne diseases, including diarrhea, the second largest killer.

Following the earthquake the drinking water facilities and household toilets have been damaged beyond repair. Without access to sanitation and hand-washing facilities the risk of infectious diseases becomes a worrying scenario. The local communities have not been able to restore the damaged drinking water facilities due to landslides at several places, and in some areas, the sources of water have dried up. So, top priority must be given to the task of restoring the damaged water pipelines.