February 23: The government is focused on road expansion drive but has paid very little attention towards road safety. It has been found that the government has invested too little for road safety measures. The World Bank has stressed on the need to invest heavily on road safety measures to reduce road accident deaths by 50 percent.
The World Bank said in a recently published report that poor road safety performance in Nepal is a symptom of underinvestment in targeted initiatives.
It is estimated that Nepal will require an additional investment of US$ 879 million over the coming decade, if it is to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal 3.6 target of a 50 percent reduction in national road crash fatalities, the World Bank said in a report published on February 20.
According to the report, road crash deaths and injuries in Nepal have been on a sharp upward trajectory since the early 2000s. In fiscal year 2017– 18, a total of 2,541 road deaths were officially reported in Nepal, which is equivalent to a fatality rate of 8.59 per 100,000 population.
In the same period, 4,144 serious injuries and several minor injury victims were also officially reported. However, according to World Health Organization data the estimated fatality rate in 2016 was 15.9 per 100,000 population, which is nearly double the official estimate.
In 2016, vulnerable road users (pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists) accounted for around 72 percent of all road fatality victims, among the highest levels in the region, with pedestrians accounting for half of these.
According to the World Bank, road deaths have a disproportionate impact on the young, working age population. About 40 percent of people killed on Nepal’s roads in 2017 –18 were less than 26 years old. In 2016, transport injuries were the second leading cause of death among men aged 15–49-years.
A recent World Bank Group study of road safety investment in South Asia revealed a crisis that has been exacerbated by the rapid growth in vehicle ownership and diversity of motorized and non-motorized traffic of varying sizes and speeds, without adequate protection for the most vulnerable.
It is clear that as vehicle ownership grows in Nepal, road crashes will continue to steadily climb—unless urgently required measures are implemented, the World Bank further said.
Nepal has a National Road Safety Strategy and Road Safety Action Plan based on the five pillars of the United Nations Global Plan for the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011– 2020: road safety management; safer roads and mobility; safer vehicles; safer road users; and post-crash response.
However, only limited progress has been made on addressing these pillars and consequently Nepal is facing serious road safety challenges. Improving road safety in Nepal is vital to national health, well-being, and economic growth.
As evidenced in analytical work undertaken by the WBG with funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies, sharply reducing the number of crash fatalities and injuries over time would enable countries like Nepal to achieve substantial increases in economic growth and national income, while simultaneously achieving large population welfare gains. This underscores the economic losses associated with inaction.
However, the report says governance challenges impede the mobilization of a systemic, targeted, and sustained road safety program in Nepal. Agencies responsible for road safety are inadequately empowered and resourced.
Crash data and network safety performance data weaknesses undermine lead agency capacity to develop a results-focused strategy and ensure its adequate coordination, legislative support, funding and resource allocation, promotion, monitoring and evaluation, and related research and development.
The World Bank suggests a number of measures to be taken for reducing road fatalities. Initiatives taken must be systematic, at scale and properly sequenced, with institutional capacity being strengthened, to ensure successful delivery, the report furthers states.
Robust vehicle and driver licensing systems will need to be established and accessible by law enforcement agencies and regulatory authorities before the full power of safety compliance regimes can be exercised.
Infrastructure safety design skills and tools will require strengthening to ensure the protection of all road users. Scaled-up road safety investment will contribute to the accumulation of human capital in Nepal, which in turn will contribute to sustainable and inclusive economic growth and overall country wealth.
It will also contribute to the achievement of other sustainable mobility goals concerning improved transport productivity, universal accessibility, climate change mitigation and adaptation, and reduced local air and noise pollution.
It will take long-term commitment and sustained vision from the Government of Nepal for this investment to be effective and bring road safety performance under control on a sustainable basis, the report concluded.