Travel troublesTravelling should not at all be as risky and stressful as it is
Former home minister Madhav Prasad Ghimire and two other people are still missing (as of this writing) after the vehicle they were travelling in plunged into the Trishuli River at Dahrechok-3 in Chitwan district on Sunday afternoon. Rescuers retrieved the bodies of three people—Ghimire’s mother Chaitanya, his nephew Narayan Kafle and APF Sub-inspector Ram Chandra Karki—from the river banks. Ghimire is probably the most high-profile individual becoming a victim of Nepal’s abominable road safety record.
The immediate cause of this particular accident is yet to be ascertained. But bad and narrow roads, reckless driving, lax enforcement of regulations and the government’s inability to control the syndicate of transport companies are some of the major factors responsible for the alarming number of road accidents in Nepal. Almost every day, there is news of one or more such accidents; not all that take place are covered. According to Nepal Police, over 2,000 people were killed in road accidents in the fiscal year 2015-16. Many more were injured or seriously maimed.
As such, it is with considerable risk that people embark on road journeys in Nepal, particularly during the monsoon. And some routes and sections within them are more prone to disasters than others. One of them is the Narayangad-Muglin road section, which is quite close to the site where Ghimire and others met with their accident on Sunday.
This section is, more often than not, the bane of travellers. Along with the fear of an accident, they usually suffer the stress of having to spend hours, sometimes an entire day, to traverse it. The 36-kilometre stretch is dotted with potholes and is vulnerable to landslides at many places. It also experiences Nepal’s heaviest traffic load, accounting for about 90 percent of the country’s total internal traffic. According to data from 2014-15, 7,337 vehicles ply this section of the highway every day. With Dashain just round the corner, this number will be significantly higher in the days ahead. It is outrageous that the Department of Roads has not paid sufficient attention to such an important section of the country’s highway despite the substantial amount of tax it raises.
Authorities have claimed they are expediting the repair of the road in view of the festival season. Last Tuesday, the Chitwan District Administration Office (DAO) directed the concerned construction companies to repair the potholes and gravel the road section within a week. It is doubtful if it will be completed by today. Moreover, the ongoing road upgradation and expansion drive has only added to the woes of the travellers.
The highway widening project began in June last year and was initially expected to be completed by September next year. However, only about a quarter of the work has been completed so far, offering an example of the country’s tardy approach to problem-solving.
Roads are the primary, if not the only, way for many people in Nepal to travel. As such, the government must invest in road safety measures and strengthen regulations to monitor the conditions of the vehicles and the drivers. Otherwise, roads will continue killing, maiming, or at the very least, stressing us out.