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November 2016 Cover Story

Published on: 2016-11-25 12:42:18     1343 times read    0  Comments
AUTO MARKET ON HIGH GEAR

Some believe that the boom in car sales will boomerang back to bite the city's inadequate road infrastructure in a bad way. But others blame bad management for the current impasse faced by motorists on the capital's roads.
 

--BY SANJEEV SHARMA / NIKEETA GAUTAM

Badly affected by last year’s twin shocks that came in the form of the April and May earthquakes and India's border blockade, the Nepali automobile market is in recent months recovering in a fast way. The entire car business which was down almost 50 percent for the whole of 2015, is now growing at a pace not seen before the earthquake, surprising even the auto dealers. “After the end of the blockade, the situation changed dramatically and the annual growth in automobile sales increased by 30-40 percent, exceeding the growth of pre-earthquake years,” says Anjan Shrestha, President of Nepal Automobile Dealers' Association (NADA). He expects sales to grow by more than 50 percent by the end of this year. 

Various factors are contributing to this remarkable recovery. Urbanisation, the rising disposable income of Nepalis, easy financing facilities and the desire of people to own vehicles in order to avoid the chaotic public transportation system are fueling passenger vehicle sales. Considered a luxury just a few decades ago, cars and two-wheelers are now regarded as necessary possessions to enhance the efficiency and productivity of individuals. Alongside that, the social status that people gain by owning a vehicle is also playing a psychological role in this regard. 

Meanwhile, the population rise in urban and sub-urban areas is also contributing to the steady rise in the sales of commercial vehicles meant for public transport.  As per official statistics, vehicles and parts worth Rs 66 billion were imported in the last fiscal year. It shows that the Nepali automobile market has been largely successful in offsetting the effects of last year’s catastrophic events. Meanwhile, the soaring registration of vehicles is also clearly pointing to the strong confidence of Nepali consumers. As per the Department of Transport Management (DoTM), the registration of vehicles across all segments reached an all-time high in FY 2015/16 with the number totaling 343,765. The figure was 239,583 in FY 2014/15. 

Is the growth sustainable? Debunking the myth
With the fast accelerating sales, questions related to the sustainability of the growth of the automobile market are often asked. When looking at the increasing congestion on Kathmandu's roads, it is obvious for people to wonder if the ‘boom’ will eventually boomerang back to bite the city. Recent data on vehicle registration that are not yet been made public, indicate that road congestion will worsen in the coming months. According to one source, some 10,000 new four-wheelers and two-wheelers were registered in the Kathmandu Valley during this year’s festive season alone. 

Some quarters say that a misconception exists among many that car sales are to blame for the problems in road management. This impression resides at all levels from the general people, bureaucracy to policymakers. However, looking closely at the facts and figures, one finds that rising vehicle sales are not the real problem.  “In terms of the degree of motorisation, we are still at the very initial stage,” says Dr Surya Raj Acharya, an expert on road transport and urban planning.  According to Acharya who is the President of the Institute for Development and Policy Studies, the estimated rate of motorisation in Nepal is not more than 50 which means only five per cent of the population own vehicles. The rate of motorisation is measured in terms of the number of vehicles per 1,000 inhabitants of a particular country. “For example, the motorisation rate in the US is 828 and 400 in Thailand,” he says. 

Behind this is the lack of proper road management and transport infrastructure where the government has failed badly to modernise. NADA President Shrestha agrees that the growth has become unsustainable. “Roads and parking lots have hardly been built in the last few years. Take for the example the state visit of the Indian president,” he mentions. “The three-day visit messed up the daily routine of the people here.  All this took place due to improper road management.”  

The total length and breadth data of the roads in the Kathmandu Valley clearly reveals the government failure when it comes to developing infrastructure necessary for the smooth flow of traffic. As per official statistics, the total length of vehicles currently in the valley stands at 7.2 million feet, whereas the total length of roads is just 4.8 million feet in the capital valley. Only around 300 kms of road has been added since 1995 when the total number of vehicles was 78,000. At present, that figure stands at about 900,000.  “The existing road infrastructure is far too inadequate for a capital city like Kathmandu,” points out Dr Acharya. “The rule of thumb for any type of urban planning in a metropolitan area is that 15-25 percent of the city area needs to be dedicated to roads, which is called the ‘Right of Way," he says. “In our context, if you go outside the Ring Road, the area dedicated to roads is about four to five percent. And in the built up areas, the area dedicated to roads is no more than seven to eight percent,” he adds. According to Acharya, looking at global data, Kathmandu has the least adequate road infrastructure among all the capitals in the world.  

Despite the huge revenue gained from the import, sales and other taxes levied upon vehicles, the government has done little to build roads and other related infrastructure. “The government collects around Rs 100 billion from the import and sales of vehicles annually. But the expenditure on developing road infrastructures is very low,” notes NADA President Shrestha. “Rather than freezing the returns generated from the market, automobile growth and infrastructure development should go hand in hand.” 

Road Expansion and Long Term Solution
According to experts, a long term solution is needed and the ongoing expansion of roads in the capital valley is only useful for the short term. Started five years ago by the government, the expansion spree helped eased traffic congestion for about three years. Chandra Man Shrestha, Director General of DoTM notes that other important infrastructure alongside the ongoing road widening drive is needed. “Kathmandu direly needs structures such as flyovers and underpasses now,” he says. “Since there are no road passes, vehicles coming from different directions create huge traffic congestions at major junctions.  To ensure smooth vehicular movement, effective directional flow of vehicles needs to be maintained.”

 Meanwhile, Prakash Aryal, Deputy Inspector General (DIG) at Kathmandu Metropolitan Traffic Division stresses that motorists must follow the rules and regulations. “Without following the rules and regulations, the underlying problems will remain there even if the roads are expanded,” he says, adding, “The main thing is the approach and attitude of drivers and other citizens to the rules.” He says the traffic police are having a tough time managing the flow of traffic when they also have to enforce the law on the streets against ignorant rule breakers. 

Convenient Public Transport System 
The condition of public transport in Nepal is chaotic at present. Various transport syndicates and cartels virtually rule the routes all across the country providing a low quality of service to passengers contributing to rising road accidents and violations of traffic rules and regulations.  This has led to talks on establishing a convenient urban transport system based on a systematic transportation approach where a large number of people can travel to their destinations through various transport means such as large buses and metro trains. 

Globally, the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) are used as effective means of urban transport. “Given the inadequate road infrastructure in the Kathmandu Valley, it is imperative to adopt off-road technology for public transport like the rail-based mass transit system,” opines Dr Acharya. According to him, the mass transit system in a metro city like ours is important to provide reliable and high-quality transport. He also stresses that it will be instrumental in shaping the city in the future. “It will also help to consolidate our haphazard housing system into planned corridors,” he explains. Nonetheless, establishing such an urban transport system is not easy in the context of Nepal due to the high level of associated costs as well as the lack of technical know how to carry out such mega projects. According to Dr Acharya, it will cost about USD 3-4 billion to construct 75 kms of metro railway lines. He suggests commissioning a comprehensive study to find financial and technical issues regarding the construction of a metro rail transit.  “Every country that introduced the metro rail system had a capital problem at the beginning. But later, it was discovered that it is a very profitable social venture,” he says. 

Recent Initiatives
The government after long delays is stepping up its drive to establish a BRT system. Assisted by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the Kathmandu Sustainable Urban Transport Project (KSUTP) will be started as a pilot project along two routes in Kathmandu.  The project will provide subsidised loans to the vehicle operators on the Gongabu-Ratnapark and Sinamangal-Rantapark routes replacing the electric three-wheelers and micro buses with large buses.

“A company will be formed to run large buses on the routes with the government and vehicle operators each having a fifty percent share. After the successful implementation of the BRT, we will go for all 66 routes across the valley,” says DoTM Director General Shrestha.

 

Organised Scrappage Policy can be a Game Changer

The festive season of Ashwin-Kartik usually brings a sense of relief and comfort for Kathmandu Valley denizens. Not only because of long leisure times but also because they can move more easily without having to worry about traffic congestions that are a common scene around the capital valley. 

One of the main reasons for the traffic jams is the lack of a proper and organised scrappage policy. A scrappage policy does exist in Nepal. But instead of scrapping the old passenger vehicles removed from the streets, the government shifts them to other districts. 

Scrapping cars is carried out in order to replace old vehicles past their sell-by-date with new ones. The policy began in European countries in order to increase the growth of the automobile market and remove inefficient, fuel consuming and carbon emitting vehicles to alleviate pollution. Such programmes also help to introduce vehicles with new safety features to reduce fatal accidents. Due to stringent safety laws, the automobile manufacturers are required to build vehicles with new safety features according to time. 

Global Scenario 
Canada: The North American countryremovedover 120,000 vehicles in the beginning of 2011 by introducing ‘Retire Your Ride’ scrappage programme.  Vehicles manufactured till 1995 and were the targets of the programme and cash incentives such as CAD 300 per vehicle and free public transit were offered for trading the old vehicles. 

China: In 2009, a scrappage policy was started and implemented in China for old and heavy polluting cars and trucks with the new ones by offering rebates ranging from USD 450 to USD 900. The programme was extended until the end of 2010. The country vigorously started work on its scrap policy in 2014 in order to solve the problem of depleting air quality by scrapping around five million vehicles off the road. 

United Kingdom: UK started a scrappage incentive scheme in 2009-2010 where the government provided cash incentives of UK Pound 2,000 for cars older than 10 years. The rebate was handled by the government as well as the automobile industry. 

US: Its scrappage programme 'The Car Allowance Rebate System' started in July 2009 and ended shortly on August, 2009. The policy helped US citizens to purchase new and more fuel efficient vehicles while trading in less fuel efficient rides. 

Germany: Germany's scrappage programme is considered as one of the most successful schemes throughout the world. Under the scheme, the owners of cars older than nine years were offered a premium of Euro 2,500 per car while buying a new vehicle. The country is also in the process of phasing out all combustion engine passenger vehicles by 2030. 

India: The Much awaited scrappage policy in India, the 'Voluntary Vehicle Fleet Modernisation Programme (V-VMP)'has plans to scrap heavy vehicles more than 15 years old in the first phase. The programme which the government aims to start in a few months’ time aims to drive the growth of the Indian auto industry by 22 percent and curb air pollution caused by carbon emission of vehicles by 65 percent. Association of Automobile Sector in India has been aggressively pushing the government to give a boost to the sector and adopt a policy to scrap older vehicles to encourage owners to buy efficient rides. 

Updated scrappage policy in the offing
Recently, the DoTM announced the removal of vehicles older than 20 years from the country’s roads. The scrappage scheme will start from Falgun 17 and aims to remove all aged public vehicles in the next two years. The government decided to remove old vehicles for the first time in 2058 BS. But the policy was ineffective due to the pressure from transport entrepreneurs. 

When bringing in new vehicles the owner will get the old number plate and will not have to pay for the route-permit. "We have a five –year five plan for proper road management. In the first two years, 100,000 vehicles will be taken off the roads. Among them, 50,000-60,000 public buses will be scrapped," says DOTM Director General Chandra Man Shrestha. According to him, as public vehicles are responsible for carrying large numbers of people, it is mandatory for those vehicles to be in good condition. The DoTM says it is also thinking about introducing a scrappage programme for older private vehicles.

 

“The government needs to build transport infrastructures from revenue it receives 
from vehicle sales”​

Anjan Shrestha, President, Nepal Automobile Dealers' Association (NADA)Anjan Shrestha
President
Nepal Automobile Dealers' Association (NADA)

How do you assess the growth of the Nepali Automobile market? 
Nepali automobile market growth hit more than 50 percent this year. Last year, we observed only a 25-30 per cent growth. New brands are entering and distributors are getting good opportunities to bring more new vehicles in the market. Meanwhile, customers are getting a lot of fresh choices.  

How is the segment wise growth? 
The growth rate for passenger vehicles is over 50 per cent, whereas commercial vehicles are growing by more than 100 per cent. Altogether, the growth has exceeded 60 percent. 

How is the market growing in Kathmandu Valley and other parts of the country?
The market share is about 55 percent for passenger vehicles in the Kathmandu Valley and 45 percent in the rest of the country. In contrast, the market share for commercial vehicles in the capital is only seven percent and for the rest of the country, it is above 90 percent. 

There are around 1.9 million vehicles in the country, among which one million are in the capital valley. Just a few years ago, Kathmandu used to account for about 60-70 per cent of the country’s automobile market. Now the growth of the market in other parts of the country is equal to Kathmandu. Due to increasing road connectivity and rapid urbanisation happening in places like Pokhara, Butwal and other areas, the automobile growth rate is high outside the valley. Meanwhile, due to lack of proper infrastructures, the growth is steady in the capital. Five years back, the vehicle growth rate was not more than 10 percent annually. 20 years ago, the population was only around one million in the Kathmandu valley. Now the population has surged by eight times and vehicle ownership has increased accordingly. We have already come to a situation where vehicles are being blamed for creating congestion on the road. However, vehicle numbers are in fact still less in proportion to the rising population.

How is the rate of motorisation in Nepal? What’s in the way of its future growth? 
If we look at the international motorisation standard, the ratio is 1:6. However, in our context, the ratio is 1:12. People here do not have a proper public transport system. So, they own vehicles for their convenience and efficiency. Hardly five percent of the infrastructure has been developed in the last twenty years.  So, the main impediment for growth is lack of proper infrastructure.  The government is not in a position to finish many of the existing incomplete road projects on time. For now, the government should complete the road corridor projects of Bishnumati, Bagmati and Dhobikhola rivers which it had initiated five years ago.  

What other obstacles do you see?
The excessive import and sales tax rate on vehicles which totals around 258 percent is another major challenge for the automobile market growth. The automobile market is the second highest revenue contributing industry after the petroleum business in the country. The government collects around Rs 100 billion revenue from the import and sales of vehicles annually. Meanwhile, the expenditure is very low on developing road infrastructures. Rather than freezing the returns generated from the market, automobile growth and infrastructure development should go hand in hand. This will benefit all stakeholders including the government, general public as well as car dealers.

How has the pace of recovery been like for the automobile market after last year’s earthquake and border blockade?
Nepalis have the trait of coming out from their problems quickly. Such resilience has helped the business sectors including the automobile sector to recover quickly from last year’s catastrophic events. There was very little business last year due to the damaged infrastructures and lack of confidence in the people. However, after the end of the blockade, the situation changed dramatically and the growth in automobile sales increased by 30-40 percent, exceeding the growth of pre-earthquake years.

Despite booming car sales, don’t you think that the growth has become unsustainable given the lack of road and other structures, especially in the Kathmandu Valley?
It has definitely become unsustainable. Roads and parking lots have hardly been built in the last few years. Take for the example of the state visit of the Indian president. The three-day visit messed up the daily routine of the people here.  All this took place due to improper road management. So, the government needs to work vigorously on building more infrastructure to help people move smoothly in any situation. 

Is the widening of roads a solution to the impending problems or do we need to look at some other options? 
The government envisions making Kathmandu a cosmopolitan city. For that, the city needs to fulfill many requirements. As the government has enough revenues, it should focus on developing more structures such as flyovers and elevated roads as soon as possible. Road widening will provide temporary relief. But for proper road management, other options need to be explored and adopted quickly. 

Nepali auto dealers mostly focus on importing private cars rather than transport vehicles.  Shouldn’t the importers look to promote vehicles that can help establish a convenient public transportation system? 
Except for some luxury brands, all kinds of vehicles are available in Nepal. I don’t agree that the automobile market players just focus on importing passenger vehicles only.  Automobile brands like Tata, Ashok Leyland, Nissan and Eicher have been launching their newly designed buses for public transport in a timely manner. Besides this, there is a need to establish a convenient public transport system. So, it is necessary for the government to break the transport syndicate and create an environment for the concerned entrepreneurs to bring large sized buses. The government has the authority and mandate to do this. 

 

“We will implement a plan to end the transport syndicates within a year”​​

Chandra Man Shrestha, Director General, Department of Transport Management (DoTM)Chandra Man Shrestha
Director General
Department of Transport
Management (DoTM)

What is DoTM doing to ease the problems in vehicular management in the capital?
Kathmandu has a large fleet of small public vehicles responsible for a lot of the traffic jams. The government has been thinking about alternatives and we also have the Kathmandu Sustainable Urban Transport Project assisted by the ADB to establish a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system soon. Also, we have plans to establish metro and monorails for the future. 

We have more than 200 road routes in the valley. We will implement the plan by dividing the existing routes into 66 routes. As per the plan, eight routes will be for the primary level, 14 for secondary level, and 44 for tertiary level. In the primary level routes, the vehicles will have less seats but more standing room with every bus having a capacity to carry 80 passengers. In the secondary routes, vehicles will have the capacity to carry 40-60 passengers. In the tertiary routes, micros buses and electric tempos will be used. 

How is the project being financed?
An understanding was reached before the Dashain festival. As per the project’s plan, the ADB will provide a grant of Rs 380 million. The grant money will be deposited by the government in the Town Development Fund (TDF). TDF will then provide loans at the subsidised rate of five percent to the vehicle operators. We have chosen two routes in Gongabu and Sinamagal to start the plan as pilot projects. A company will be formed to run large buses on the routes with the government and vehicle operators each having a fifty percent share. After the successful implementation of the BRT, we will go for all 66 routes across the valley. 

Will the public transport syndicates agree to the plan?
We have held discussions with the vehicle operators on these routes. Since it is profitable for them as well, they are ready to help implement the plan. The vehicle operators will be given soft loans and re-capitalisation will also happen. 

We do not have an organised scrappage policy and proper infrastructure to ensure a long term solution. What do you think is needed?
From now on, the scrappage policy will be systematically implemented. It is true that the earlier efforts were not that successful. The updated scrappage policy will be in place from Falgun. As per the two year old decision of the Council of Ministers, 100,000 vehicles that are more than 20 years old will be removed from the roads. In the next two years, all removed vehicles will be scrapped.  Around 50-60,000 old buses will be scrapped. We are thinking of introducing a scrappage policy for older private vehicles after the plan is implemented for public vehicles. 

What needs to be done to develop the urban road transport infrastructure?
Road expansion is not the solution. Kathmandu direly needs flyovers now. Since there are no road passes, vehicles coming from different directions create huge traffic congestions at major junctures.  To ensure a smooth vehicular movement, effective directional flow of vehicles needs to be maintained. The government has plans to make flyovers in different parts of the capital. The construction of a flyover in the Tripureswor-Maitighar section will start soon. Similarly, an underpass will be built by the Chinese government in the Kalanki section of the Ring Road which is currently under expansion. If the roads are expanded in such ways, the infrastructures will be good enough to smooth traffic flow. 

There is a widespread presence of syndicates in almost all types of transport systems across the country. Why is it that such cartels still exist despite being declared illegal by the Supreme Court more than 12 years ago?
Lapses in implementing various laws and the ineffectiveness of rules and regulations in the past have created this situation. But we have decided to carry out effective implementation of the rules and regulations and the verdict of the court. In Chaitra 2072, we introduced a five-year plan. Part of the plan includes ending transport syndicates in one year. In a country governed by a democratic system, entrepreneurs are forbidden to create syndicates and cartels.They need to improve the quality of service in a competitive manner instead. 

Establishing a Mass Rapid Transit system looks necessary as a long term solution to manage the city’s roads. Does DoTM have any plans regarding the MRT modality?
While talking about the modality, it is better to go for a metro system. Electric trains and monorails can be the most effective forms of urban public transport.  The Japan International Cooperation (JICA) has also been studying whether an MRT system can be viable here. It is difficult for Nepal to construct a MRT on its own as such a project requires huge investment. Until we have the capital to build such a big infrastructure, we need to start and strengthen the BRT system. 

What is the progress on the distribution of smart card driving licenses and implementing embossed number plates?  
We are issuing the smart cards with all our available resources. We have been carrying out the distribution successfully in the Bagmati Zone and the rest of the country will follow this month. Distribution of embossed number plates is our other major objective. It will help the authorities to resolve various issues such as theft and the illegal sales of vehicles. The new number plates are electronically configured with all the details about the ownership and technical details of the respective vehicle. Concerned authorities can have all information about the vehicles just using hand-held readers.  Such plates will be issued from 10 places across the country during the first phase- five in the Kathmandu Valley and five in other main cities. We are also going to make the license process online within a month. 

 

“Establishing a MRT system can transform the capital valley”​​​

Dr Surya Raj Acharya, President, Institute for Development and Policy StudiesDr Surya Raj Acharya
President
Institute for Development and Policy Studies

Car sales have been booming. Is this adding to the problems of road management? Or are there any other reasons for the mismanagement of roads at present?
The rate of sales of vehicles has increased rapidly in recent years. Nonetheless, in terms of the degree of motorisation, we are still at the very initial stage. We measure the motorisation rate in terms of the number of vehicles per 1,000 inhabitants. For example, the motorisation rate in the US is 828 and in Thailand 400. Though we do not have authentic data, the rate is not more than 50 in Nepal which means only five percent of the population own vehicles. 

But on the other hand, we are facing road congestions. The reason behind it is that the existing road infrastructure is far too inadequate for a capital city like Kathmandu. The rule of thumb for any type of urban planning in a metropolitan area is that 15-25 percent of the city area needs to be dedicated to roads- this is called the Right of Way. In our context, if you go outside the Ring Road, the area dedicated to roads is about four to five percent. And in the built up areas, the area dedicated to roads is no more than seven to eight percent. Looking at global data, our country's capital has the least adequate road infrastructure among all the capitals in the world. 

Haphazard and unplanned urbanisation has led to various difficulties. What do you think is the way out? 
For some reason we did make some big mistakes in planning, policy making and urbanising our capital city in a proper way and now we are facing the consequences. Our country doesn't have the luxury just to rely on text book solutions or theoretical ideas. We have to think in innovative ways and figure a way out to implement the theoretical plans. 

There are three major constraints regarding the urban planning of Kathmandu Valley. First, a vision that how Kathmandu is expected to be like in future has not yet been clearly articulated at the political and policy making levels. The next constraint that we face is the lack of l capacity in technocratic and operational levels. We don't have the expertise in this area. The government has a very low level of institutional capacity to manage any infrastructure development project. In the absence of concrete policy framework, even donor agencies’ assistance faces a risk  to be counter productive. The third constraint is finance as we lack capital and it is difficult to mobile necessary investment resources. So, we need to focus on the political and technical sides and on developing capital resources very carefully. It won’t be difficult for us to find a working solution if we are able to address these issues.

What modality is appropriate to develop urban transport in our context?
We cannot separate urban transport from urban development. The urban transport policies without close coordination with urban planning wouldn’t be as effective. 

Given the inadequate road infrastructure in Kathmandu Valley, it is imperative to adopt off-road technology for public transport like the rail-based mass transit system. The mass transit system in a metro city like ours is important not only to provide reliable and high-quality transport service, but will also be instrumental to shape up the city. It will also help to consolidate our haphazard housing system into planned corridors. When the metro rail system becomes the backbone of the city transportation, then the problems of other means of transportation can be dealt with accordingly within the framework of a hierarchal public transport system. While taking about metro rail, we often discuss it as prohibitively expensive. What we have to be very clear about this is we do not need an extensive system of metro rail. Just three lines of metro totaling 70-75 km in length may be enough for the next 25 years. Even one metro line from north to south in 10 years time will be good enough to relieve our public transportation problems. 

Sometimes the solution that appears smart for the short run might turn out to be a cause of the problem in the long run. Electric three-wheelers, for instance, were celebrated when we first introduced them in the 90s. Now, one of the reasons for the road congestion is these vehicles that are now difficult to remove. 

Nevertheless, we need to have clear visions and effective plans to change the scenario. To shift towards an efficient public transportation model, we need to provide reliable and good quality options for public transport. Otherwise, we are in a situation where we label all public transport users as 'captive users' who have no other option than to use public transport in a forced way. 

Financing a metro system in Nepal is a cumbersome task as such a project requires a high level of investment. Many feasibility studies done in the past have gathered dust in various government offices. How can Nepal develop such highly capital intensive projects?
Lack of clarity at the political and policy-making level is the major problem here as not enough effort has been made to understand this issue clearly. Policymakers and even urban planners often make superficial statements. When it comes to addressing issues of urban transport, we need to deal it in dynamic context considering social, technical, and political aspects. We have not yet commissioned any comprehensive study addressing this issue. Every country that introduced the metro rail system had a capital problem at the beginning. But later, it was discovered that it is a very profitable social venture. 

Firstly, while establishing a metro system, we must understand that it is a social need than a financial venture. It will cost about USD 3-4 billion to construct 75 km of metro lines. So, if the government and the society invest USD 3 billion, then both the users and society will have benefits. Users can have better services, city will have more productivity, and the land value will rise up around the metro lines. Data from the cities with metro lines show that the cities have received benefits much more than the invested amount. The Indian capital New Delhi is a recent example in our neighborhood. After the Indian government started debating the possible development of a metro line in New Delhi after Kolkata, proponents and opponents of the proposed project came up. The skeptical side opposed the whole idea citing the Kolkata Metro as being a disaster.  However, with an efficient management, Delhi Metro was successfully implemented making a record of keeping time and budget, and now operating as an efficient system.

The government is about to start a pilot project related to bus transportation in Kathmandu in order to establish a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). What are you suggestions for the smooth implementation of BRT?
Despite its various attractive features, the BRT system has shortfalls too. It is considered a successful public transportation system around the world. But the story is not the same with all developing countries. In particular, cities with inadequate road infrastructure face problem in allocating dedicated road lanes to BRT system. For instance, the BRT in Bangkok is not of much success. Likewise, first BRT line in New Delhi was stopped. Some donor agencies are promoting BRT aggressively as the system is within the reach of their transport portfolio. It is often claimed that BRT, with a fraction of cost of metro rail, can provide the same capacity and service level as metro rail. Such a statement should be carefully vetted, as this is not factually true. Nevertheless, we need to have a complete study to make an objective judgment on feasibility of BRT here. Instead of BRT,I think more appropriate option for Kathmandu would be high capacity buses with dedicated bus lane for a limited time of peak hours. 

How can the ongoing road widening move ahead in sustainable way?
Road widening is very welcome step by the government. Sooner or later, the road widening was necessary. Road widening initiative has also losers and winners. Despite losses by some property owner, benefits of road widening is spread over large number of other property owners in the vicinity of the widened road. The government has to devise a way that ensures the fair distribution of the burden of costs and benefits. The Public Roads Act, 2031 has made a legal provision for imposing development tax from the property owners who get benefits from the construction of roads. Also, if the government provides fair compensation to the public it will be easy to continue the widening work. Another issue related to the road widening is allocation of right-of-way between vehicular traffic and pedestrians.  I think converting two lanes into four lanes by keeping narrow footpaths is the wrong approach. Equal priority should be given to footpath since footpath will be very important to access public transport stations. Also important is to think about innovate urban design along the expanded road, such as provision of arcade along the commercial streets. 

 

“Traffic laws should have substantial deterrence power to be effective”​

Prakash Aryal, Deputy Inspector General of Police Kathmandu Metropolitan Traffic Police DivisionPrakash Aryal
Deputy Inspector General 
of Police
Kathmandu Metropolitan Traffic Police Division

How challenging is it for the traffic police to manage traffic on the roads?
There are 900,000 vehicles and six million people moving in the Kathmandu valley daily. It’s not difficult to see the challenges faced by the traffic police in such places. There is no other metropolitan and cosmopolitan city in the world where the traffic police need to manage the traffic manually. Though we have been working for the smooth vehicular movement, it is a very difficult task for us as people are not aware of the traffic rules and regulations. 

What major problems are the traffic police facing at present particularly in the Kathmandu valley and, also, around the country?
Using hand signals to manage the traffic has been the main challenge for us. Working in busy roads without using technology makes our jobs tougher. Besides this, the existing laws do not have much power to deter drivers from committing traffic violations.  For example, though we have been charging a fine of Rs 500 for breaking traffic rules, people usually break the laws with no concern about the money. This is because the amount in fines they have to pay is so small. Until and unless the laws become more substantial, rules are likely to be ineffective. 

As per the Urban Transport Manual, the traffic police have only three percent responsibility regarding traffic management. 97 percent of the responsibility is of the general public themselves. You might have observed certain changes in the traffic management over the past few years. However, that is only the three percent.

What strategies and techniques are being employed by the traffic police to ease road congestions and lower the accident rate?
We are using all available resources and have employed all techniques to reduce road congestion. We have assigned a hotline for the general public where they can receive updated information about the situation of roads around the valley to avoid traffic jams. Similarly, Traffic FM has also been actively working to make people aware about the traffic rules. The mobile app ‘Traffic Police Nepal’ is also helping us to regulate the roads and lower road accidents. Road accidents claim five to six lives every day throughout the country. We are also organising traffic awareness campaigns in different educational institutions and have trained around 92,000 youths and children. 

The action against ‘drinking and driving’ which is popularly known as the ‘mapase’ campaign has been one of our most successful initiatives. We take action against around 60-80 people in the weekdays and approximately 100 in the weekends. It has largely reduced road accidents that are related to driving under the influence of alcohol. But, still there have been some violations of the rule.

Similarly, we have also been using some devices. Dash cams, for instance, are being used in public vehicles to monitor the driving and situation inside public vehicles. We are using audio recorders to record disputes. Likewise, we have CCTVs to manage the roads. Nevertheless, there are still not enough devices in the capital.

How has the road expansion drive helped the traffic police in traffic management? What are the other areas we need to develop or improve to ensure smooth traffic flow?
The solution to the increasing traffic congestion is not just expanding the roads. Without following the rules and regulations, the underlying problems will remain there even if the roads are expanded. The main thing is the approach and attitude of drivers and other citizens to the rules.

The capital valley saw an addition of more than 100,000 vehicles in the last fiscal year. This clearly suggests that vehicle registration will increase in the current FY. If the same trend continues for the next five years, traffic management will become uncontrollable. So, for sustainability, the economy and even from an environmental point of view, it is important to improve the public transportation system. Similarly, separate lanes for walking, cycling and public transport need to be constructed. 

What are the most essential things needed for the Traffic Police to effectively manage traffic?
Setting up proper vehicle standards, construction of adequate road infrastructures and the optimal use of technology can solve many issues in road and traffic management. Similarly, strict vehicle licensing measures can also make a difference. Children should be given traffic education in such a way that they become habituated to follow the traffic rules. It is also necessary to use more technologies like automated and integrated light systems with smart detectors. Using GPS trackers, for example, in every vehicle can help ease various problems. 


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