1-7 January 2016 #789

City safari on rickshaw

Restrictions on movement of big vehicles imposed by Madhesi protesters have increased the popularity of electric rickshaws
Birat Anupam in ITAHARI


While overcrowded buses were a common sight on the streets of Itahari in the past, restrictions on movement of big vehicles imposed by Madhesi protesters have increased the popularity of electric rickshaws among passengers in this Tarai town.

From farmers to students, to even protest organisers, can be seen riding on these three-wheelers which can accommodate upto 8 passengers.

Seeing the demand among commuters, local Bhola Paswan (pic, above) recently closed down his fruit stall, and purchased an electric rickshaw for Rs 270,000. On an average Paswan earns Rs 1,000 a day ferrying passengers in his new vehicle.

“I am confident I can earn back my investment within six months,” he says.

Travelling in this new vehicle is also relatively inexpensive. A short commute within the city costs passengers Rs 20 while a longer-distance travel to neighbouring Dharan costs Rs 600.

Locally known as ‘City Safari’ the e-rickshaws have especially become popular among students and youths who usually reserve the vehicle to go on picnics and excursions.

Electric rickshaws are now being used to transport not just people, but also commodities such as vegetables and daily essentials to the market.

The boom in the use of city safari has pleased both its operators and environmental activists. Yatri Shekhar, an Itahari-based journalist and also a campaigner of KIC (Keep Itahari Clean) says electric rickshaws are vital for green rides. ‘’We planted more than a thousand tree saplings in Itahari sub-metropolitan city spaces and introduced intra-city and inter-city electric vehicles like City Safari. This is a great start to campaign for a green city,” he says.

Sonu Jayanti, a theatre artist and another KIC campaigner, says that it is now time for the authorities to promote green rides in bigger cities like Biratnagar and Kathmandu as well.

Electrical engineer Raj Kumar Gupta says that the mid-hill highway can be made a green highway where only electric vehicles are allowed to travel. Battery exchange or charging centers can be housed at various points of the highway, and Nepal can ask for carbon budget and other credits from the international community, he says.

‘’The government should try to end load-shedding and promote electric vehicles for the long term,” says Gupta. “The Indian blockade is a wake-up call.”

Read also:

"An electric future for Nepal"

Electrified transportation, Sahina Shrestha

Electric city