Nepali Times Asian Paints
Road safety

Thank you to CK Lal for "The road not taken" (#122), bringing much-needed attention to the situation on Nepal's roads. Because my work in Nepal has largely been limited to northern Humla District (accessible only by foot or plane), in 8 years of on-off work and residence in the country I did not until this year have the opportunity to use Nepal's road system to a mountainous place. This year, I went by car to Dunche in Langtang. To be honest, I hope it was the last time I travel in or out of Kathmandu by road.

By and large I try to understand the challenges faced by Nepal's leaders, but by the time I got back to Kathmandu I was infuriated on behalf of the average Nepali citizen, who has no choice but to travel these roads. I cannot understand why more attention is not paid to this situation-especially when terrible fatal accidents, sometimes involving entire busloads of passengers, are reported nearly every week in Nepal's papers-and those are only the reports that make it to the papers! In Western Nepal, many bus accidents occur which are never reported in the national news media. Roads as narrow as the one we were on simply cannot accommodate the traffic they bear-they cannot bear even average-sized automobiles passing each other at normal speeds, let alone the more commonly seen wide buses and lorries.

Why can\'t the government install simple, inexpensive technologies to address this situation, such as the large mirrors one can see in other countries with dangerous roads, which allow drivers to see around corners and anticipate on-coming traffic? Providing for the safety of citizens on public thoroughfares in this way should be a duty felt by all of Nepal's elected or inherited leaders. This is not a particularly expensive or unreasonable suggestion. Would an improvement like this help address any of Nepal's major "development challenges" in any direct way? No. But that's not the point. There is plenty of money and energy in Nepal for addressing those major challenges, though the wisdom with which that money and energy has been spent (and subsequent outcomes) may be argued. The point is that underlying an insistence on improvements in road safety conditions is the kind of civic-minded thinking that could give Nepal's citizenry the sense that their leaders not only think about their welfare, as is the moral obligation of any national leader, but that they do something about it as well. With a populace so obviously disenchanted with its leadership, shifting thinking toward civic-mindedness would be a very positive development, indeed.

Kimber Haddix McKay,

. Considering myself an aspiring transportation professional, I completely agree with CK Lal's concern for the need of a paradigm shift for the safety in the transportation industry in Nepal. No matter how expensive a road you build with most sophisticated technology, road accidents are unavoidable. Statistically, a road accident is a function of countless number of independent and dependent variables. Accident events are a function of road design, traffic volume, driver behaviour, weather condition, vehicle condition, laws and regulation etc. So even the provision of better design or better vehicle design will not guarantee complete safety. The challenge for us in Nepal is to find one of the variables that can be handled within the institutional and economic framework and focus on this variable to reduce the number of accidents and increase safety. A good way to start would be to perform a countrywide yearly safety study, which would help us understand the safety factors involved and generate the kind of awareness among politicians, bureaucrats and technocrats, of how much the country is losing. Using this study as a platform, numerous ideas can be generated to increase safety at different levels, ideas for further research and effective implementation. We don't need technological innovations, what we need is an awareness about transportation safety.

Rajat Rajbhandari,
New Jersey, USA

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)