Criticism leads Department of Roads to restore 12 dysfunctional traffic lights, but no one is sure about their longevityTraffic lights on the Capital's roads were dysfunctional almost throughout the past year.
After widespread criticism from commuters and media regarding the dysfunctional traffic lights, the Department of Roads in coordination with Metropolitan Traffic Police Division has restored a dozen traffic lights in the Capital over the past one month, but commuters and drivers are questioning their sustainability.
The traffic lights were dysfunctional since last year, but the department did nothing about them. The road authority, which had allocated Rs10.9 million a year ago, gave promises to repair the lights "very soon", but never fixed them
The roads department has finally repaired the traffic lights in Kalimati, Bagbazar, Padmodaya Mode, Putalisadak, Singhadurbar, New Baneshwor, Tinkune, Old Baneshwor, Gaushala, Durbarmarg, and Kesharmahal. But people doubt if these lights will be regularly maintained.
"It's not a surprise for me to have these traffic lights working, but you never know when they will stop working," said Dal Bahadur Karki, 37, who has been driving a microbus on the Lagankhel to Ratnapark route for the past decade.
Talking to the Post, Karki vented his ire toward the government's indifference in repairing traffic lights and not operating the newly installed traffic lights. "It's been a year since the new traffic lights were installed in Thapathali, but they have still not come into operation."
When the Post contacted the department officials to inquire why the traffic lights in Thapathali are not operational, they cited technical glitches.
In March 2018, the Department of Roads, in association with Kathmandu Metropolitan City, had installed smart traffic lights in New Baneshwor and Maharajgunj at a total cost of Rs4.2 million. The lights went kaput within a month.
The government's apathy in repairing traffic lights has contributed to the traffic congestion in busy areas like Tripureshwor, Maharajgunj and Chabahil.
"We are going to restore all the traffic lights within this fiscal year. We are coordinating with the traffic police, Kathmandu Metropolitan City and other stakeholders," said Keshav Kumar Sharma, director-general at the roads department.
He said the department has already spent around Rs5 million to repair the broken traffic lights. He also said the department is consulting with all stakeholders to install traffic lights at all intersections and junctions.
"The department has already signed a Memorandum of Understanding with electrical engineering pass out students from the Institute of Engineering two months ago," said Sharma.
But what Sharma said is nothing new. Two years ago, then spokesperson at the roads department, Mukti Gautam, had said that all the traffic lights in 35 junctions would come into operation within that fiscal year, but the department failed to keep its promise.
"The only thing our government officials can do is make big plans and promises. They seldom execute them, and this apathy frustrates the citizens," said Apsara Bajgain, a teacher who lives in Sano Bharyang.
In December 2018, the Kathmandu Metropolitan City had made a tall announcement to construct 100' smart zebra crossings', and had allocated Rs13 billion, at a time when 60 percent zebra crossings had either faded or were non-existent.
Talking to the Post, Senior Superintendent of Police Bhim Prasad Dhakal said if the traffic lights are operational at all the junctions, it would help reduce more than 60 percent traffic manpower on the roads. "That manpower can be mobilised to the inner part of the city, where traffic has increased," Dhakal added.