Vehicles made quite a late entry into Nepal. Mainly this was because of lack of roads in the rugged terrains in this mountainous country and also the difficulties in transporting vehicles on the shoulders of humans. There still is a photograph of how a vehicle was carried on the shoulders of men while bringing in a luxury car into Kathmandu for the comfort of the then rulers. Slowly more vehicles started to arrive with the opening of a road joining Kathmandu to the Terai region. But actually the flow of cars and other vehicles started only from the early 1970s.
But while we will talk of the inflow of vehicles and also digging up of unplanned roads later, the main issue we are going to dwell on is the increasing number of road accidents in Kathmandu and on the highways of this country, too. At first there were only a few private vehicles and many more than them were the government cars and jeeps given by friendly countries. The Americans and the British first donated Willys jeeps which became largely redundant after the Second World War. Similarly, the Americans and the Russians, the then Soviet Union, also gave as grants old vehicles beside some funds and other goods which could be useful for the Nepali offices and things which were also something new for Nepal which had just freed itself from the dictatorial Rana rule.
Terrifying road mishaps
While in the flat lands down in the south, vehicles could more or less move from one place to the other though there were no proper roads, imagining four wheel motors in the hilly terrain was still a far off dream. Even now individuals with large land holding are digging up roads in the hilly areas with no technical know-how and hardly enough backup to make the roads stronger and the terrain safer. These days we hear of constant landslips causing damages and human fatalities. That is why there is an urgent need to make our roads safer so that people can travel with confidence and the beautiful and natural hilly terrains are not scarred by unplanned roads and creepy looking landslips in many places.
Let us start with the terrifying number of road mishaps happening in Kathmandu and many places around the country. It frightens the daylights out of you if you have to travel to any place, especially hilly areas, by road. One hears of several accidents taking place in different places almost every week. Forget the bigger passenger buses, even smaller public transport and two wheelers are constantly colliding or running off the roads and taking the lives of innocent passengers. It wrenches one’s heart when we hear of people of the same family or women and children also losing their lives just because they chose to take a wrong vehicle.
Of course, accidents take place all over the world and no one can predict it. However the incidents can be drastically controlled due to certain actions, rules and regulations. Awareness of safe driving can also play a huge part in minimizing accidents. There are several things which must be strictly implemented by the authorities and also by drivers of vehicles as well as those who use the roads in any way. The first is to maintain the roads by the government and make them also wide before anything is built there. In many countries roads are planned and then only sections are divided what structure will stand where.
Water outlets and outlets for wires should also be planned and then only the roads can be built and the structure later without endangering the smooth flow of traffic. A form of proper traffic sense must also be initiated right from the elementary schools with short term campaigns only to refresh lessons learnt by the children previously. Proper road sense must be instilled and made into a habit of the whole society. Driving licenses must be given in a very strict manner with the authorities very sure that the new driver is familiar with anything to do with road safety and even first aid.
One other very important thing, especially for drivers in small roads like that in Kathmandu, is they should not overspeed and they must always stay within their street lines. We hear of motorcycles, not big vehicles colliding head on quite regularly, something unheard of in many other cities. There are thousands of smaller side swipes of vehicles that go unreported and drivers just ignore it as they are afraid of getting into more hassles. Then there are cases of not properly maintained vehicles which can endanger the life of not only the passengers but also others who are using the same road.
Keeping your vehicles in a sound condition can not only save you and your near and dear ones. Meanwhile, in the hilly areas of the country, ‘land mafias’ and others desiring to see roads reaching the far-flung villages, do not pay attention to things like a proper technician to see where the tracks should be made, proper water outlets should be constructed and soil tests should be done so that the whole hill is not weakened and households on top are not in danger of being victims of floods and landslides.
In Kathmandu itself, too many vehicles, crowds of people on the streets, lack of functioning traffics lights and not enough traffic policemen to man the roads are other causes that are creating traffic jams and accidents. There should be much coordination among authorities involved in road building, more traffic sense in the jay walkers and strict regulations to punish the guilty before road mishaps are decreased if not eradicated from our streets and cities.
(Yug Bahadur is a freelance writer.)