A good rideGovt should introduce programmes to promote use of zero emission vehicles
On Monday, the Ministry of Home Affairs announced that Nepal is facing a fuel ‘emergency’. In the face of an acute fuel shortage, resulting from the undeclared embargo imposed by India, vehicles with license plates ending in even and odd numbers have been plying the roads alternatively. The government has also introduced fuel rationing: owners of motorbikes and scooters can only purchase three litres of petrol per week while private cars can purchase 10 litres per week. Public vehicles along with school buses, can buy up to 30 litres of fuel every other day.
To put things in perspective, the shortage of petrol, diesel and Liquefied Petroleum Gas is a recurring event in Nepal. Last year, in December, there was a shortage of cooking gas due to a standoff between the government and Gas Dealers Federation Nepal, an association of cooking gas suppliers. While the reason for the shortage is entirely different this time, the issue remains the same. Nepal is yet to make an effort to move away from its unhealthy dependence on fossil fuels, all of which has to be imported.
According to a 2013 report titled Sustainable Energy for All: Rapid Gap Analysis Nepal, published by the National Planning Commission, Nepal meets 85 percent of its energy needs through traditional biomass products such as fuel wood, agricultural residue and animal dung. Meanwhile, the transportation sector consumes 64 percent of the petroleum products imported by Nepal which fulfills nine percent of the total energy requirement of the country. This is understandable given the sharp spike in the number of motor vehicles. The import of vehicles and their parts was the largest source of revenue for the Department of Customs in the previous fiscal year. It earned Rs 43.61 billion in import duty and taxes amounting to 25 percent of the total revenue. The import of petroleum products was the second largest source revenue for the Customs.
Given this linkage between automobiles and the consumption of fossil fuels, there was a rally in Kathmandu yesterday to highlight the importance of using environment-friendly transport. The government should take note. It should also consider giving concessions to zero emission vehicles and cutting down the excise duties on batteries used by them. Building bicycles lanes in Kathmandu and other large cities across the country could also encourage many to switch to cycling. Currently, many fear cycling in the main roads due to the chaotic traffic. In addition, the government must be serious about implementing the Environment-friendly Vehicle and Transport Policy 2014 by forumulating relevant programmes. It could begin by allocating dedicated routes to environmental-friendly vehicles such as the Safa tempo.