Print Edition - 2016-08-17 | Editorial
- Govt must invest in safer roads and strengthen transport regulations
Aug 17, 2016-It must be a traumatic day for Dalman Tamang and many others who survived one of the worst bus accidents in Nepal in recent years. As many as 27 people were killed and more than 40 injured when a crowded passenger bus plunged down a hillside on Monday at Birtadeurali VDC in Kavre, around 50km from the district headquarters Dhulikhel.
Tamang considers himself fortunate that he did not get a seat on the bus. The 35-seater bus was carrying around 90 people and a large amount of foodstuff. “There was hardly any space inside; I was hanging on the door and managed to jump off right before the bus fell down,” Tamang said trembling. Many of those who were travelling on the roof jumped off the vehicle and survived. A police superintendent said overcrowding caused the accident.
Monday’s tragedy is far from an isolated incident. Road disasters are frighteningly common in Nepal, particularly during the monsoon. An average of around five people die daily in such disasters in the country. On Monday itself, at least three people died and 27 were hurt in another bus accident in Baitadi in the Far West. Almost every day, there is news of one or more such accidents in the country; not all that take place are covered. Despite the significant death toll from road accidents, they have not received the attention and seriousness they deserve.
Globally too, road safety has been a relatively ignored issue. This is so even though road accidents were the ninth leading cause of death in 2004, and could be the fifth by 2030. In an attempt to make roads less dangerous, the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2011 launched a “decade of road safety”, with a plan to save five million lives and prevent 10 times as many serious injuries by 2020. The plan has provisions
for designing safer roads, enforcing safety laws, improving emergency services and increasing public awareness. As many as 1.3 million people around the world die from road accidents every year; more than 90 percent of the victims are from poor and
middle-income countries like Nepal.
Some argue that road disasters do not grab as much attention as air crashes because it is the poor who suffer disproportionately from the former. Others claim that the excessive focus on connectivity, rather than on safety, has resulted in the proliferation of unsafe roads in Nepal. Yet others blame the government’s inability to control the syndicate of transport companies for the high number of road accidents. There is some merit in all these arguments. No doubt, roads facilitate the exchange of goods and ideas and are an important means of development. They are the primary, if not the only, way for many people in Nepal to travel. As such, the government must invest in road safety measures and strengthen regulations to monitor the conditions of the vehicles and drivers. Otherwise, roads will continue killing and maiming many of our compatriots.
Published: 17-08-2016 09:55