Road safety issue still on back burner in Nepal

Published On: April 21, 2019 06:30 PM NPT

KATHMANDU, April 21: It has been three years since the meeting of Council of Ministers decided to form the Road Safety Council, and four years elapsed since efforts were made to introduce Road Safety Bill, but to no avail.

The number of road accidents is alarmingly increasing in the country owing to various reasons, one among them being the absence of stringent laws regarding road safety and secondly the lax implementation of the existing laws. The UN General Assembly held on April 12, 2017 had taken up the resolution under agenda 12 to make the roads and travel safer, ensure post-accident rescue and care, and reduce the deaths by half by 202 as mentioned in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Nepal has also pledged its commitment towards it, despite that the cases of road accidents and damages done by it continue to grow unabated annually.

Three line ministers have assumed their office since the decision was made to form the Road Safety Council but no concrete efforts have been made towards it. Given this dillydally, the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport (MoPIT) has sent a draft relating to the formation of Road Safety Council and its operation procedure to the Council of Ministers to expedite the work, shared senior divisional engineer at the MoPIT, Govinda Prasad Kharel.

“Our neighbouring countries have formed such Council and achieved good results in the sector of road safety too”, said Kharel, adding the concept of Council came into being to formulate related bills, streamline, and monitor the road safety sector. Parliamentarian Dr Deela Shangraula Panta had registered a proposal on the issue of public importance on January 8, calling for a discussion on road safety. Proposals were also presented, discussed and approved for the formation of Road Safety Council, the introduction of driver awareness drive, determination of clear criteria for road and rules for pedestrians among others.

Statistics of Nepal Police shows that 8,982 persons were killed in 40,777 road accidents across the country over a period of five years (2013/14 to 2017/18). Seven people are killed in road accidents each day in Nepal and on an average, 2,000 people are killed in road accidents every year. The Ministry in 2069 BS had issued the Nepal Road Safety Action Plan and the UN in 2004 had constituted the UN Road Safety Collaboration with the World Health Organisation with a view to improving road safety on a global level.

In 2009, the UN had published a study report about road safety. Moreover, the UN had announced the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020 which aims to address the road safety issues globally by reducing the road accidents by 50 percent. Though the government formulated the Action Plan as per the call of the UN, its implementation is weak, admits one of the officials in the Ministry. As the Ministry official said despite the initiation and efforts from the bureaucracy level for effective enforcement of the Action Plan, the issue is yet to become the priority of political leadership.

“Road safety is yet to get due attention of the political leadership and the Road Safety Council which was decided to be formed by the Council of Minister in 2073 BS is yet to be formed. This is a testimony that people in authority are not serious about the road safety issues,” said the Ministry official. Ramesh Lekhak was the line minister at the time. He was followed by Bir Bahadur Balayar and presently Raghubir Mahaseth assumes the post.

The sitting minister earlier in the House of Representatives (HoR) meeting and the meeting of the Development and Technology Committee, HoR, pledged to bring the bill relating to road safety before the third session of the House. Gopilal Nepal, Chief of Law Section at MoPIT said the Ministry had on April 14 took a policy-level decision to enact the bill. Feedback regarding it has been demanded from the stakeholders concerned and the document will be sent to the Ministry of Law for further action once suggestions are received.

The draft will be presented at the Council of Ministers after it gets approval from the Law Ministry. Once Council of Minister approves it, it will be registered at the Parliament Secretariat for the discussion in the House. The UN worldwide figure shows that on overage 3,000 people are killed in road accidents every day and the annual data is counted at over million (1.3 million). The UN Decade for Road Safety Action Plan aims to reduce its figure by 50 percent. It is supported by the WHO. RSS

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