All aboardIntroduction of the high-tech, low-emission buses could help reduce pollution
Published at : August 15, 2018
Updated at : August 15, 2018 10:34
Deteriorating public transport associated with urban sprawl and increased motorisation has been plaguing Kathmandu for ages. Amid this, a fleet of 17 high-tech, low emission buses have been introduced to replace the 26 ageing microbuses and 35 tempos that ply the Gongabu-Sinamangal route. This is exciting news as it could be a game changer for improving mass transport and reducing congestion and pollution in the Capital.
Green public transport in Kathmandu is not new. When the iconic trolley bus, which was a gift from China, was first introduced in 1975, it was ahead of its time. For two solid decades, it connected Kathmandu with Thimi and Bhaktapur, but the service had to be discontinued in 2008 owing to poor management.
According to the Department of Transport Management, the number of registered vehicles—cars and motorbikes in particular—in Kathmandu alone increased by over 20 percent from 2014-2016. An increase in the number of registered vehicles coupled with the lack of emission control has led to a worrisome rise in pollution. Air pollution not only causes respiratory infections, excessive exposure to high levels of particulate matter (PM) 2.5 in the air can lead to cardiovascular diseases and long-term damage to the liver, spleen, and blood.
Quite naturally, urban populations, particularly the children and elderly, are especially vulnerable to the effects of air pollution. If traffic mismanagement and the increase in accidents, especially by two-wheelers, are factored in, simply taking to Kathmandu’s streets could potentially be lethal. The only long-term and sustainable solution here is to invest in a proper mass transit system. And introduction of the high-tech, low-emission buses could help reduce pollution.
Over the years, the population of Kathmandu has grown manifold. But there is an incongruity between the rise in population and the development of a proper mass public transport. There is an acute mismanagement problem. Commuters can barely expect a comfortable, hassle free ride as there is no schedule and bus stops are few and far in between. What’s more, public vehicles are overcrowded since they cram in more people than their carrying capacity.
Until recently, the syndicate system in the transport sector was a major player when it came to fixing routes, hiking prices, and deterring other players from entering the market. Political efforts to curb the syndicate in the Capital had long been futile even when cases were twice filed at the Supreme Court. But the recent Oli-led government appears to have been successful to some degree in ending the cartel in public transportation. In May, following an agreement with the government, public transport operators started registering themselves as private companies. The compromise opened up the market for new players, proving that strong leadership can undo years of bad practices.
Public transport is one of the pillars of sustainable urban development. Different cities have different characteristics. If the government and the private sector sustain their drive for greener public transportation, then Kathmandu, infamous for being a congested, polluted city, can be transformed in to a city where residents can breathe free.