Kathmandu’s defunct street lamps raise safety concernsTraffic police say their CCTV cameras don’t work without proper lighting, road users feel unsafe.
At 6.30 am on Monday, a van hit a 60-year-old man in Halchowk, Kathmandu and sped away.
The victim, Bidur Bhandari, died on the spot. But it was difficult for traffic police to immediately track down the vehicle, as the incident took place on a foggy morning and CCTV footage of the incident was not clear.
“We could only notice the make and model of the van, but could not read the vehicle’s number plate on the CCTV footage we obtained from a camera in the area,” said Senior Superintendent of Police Janak Bhattrai, who is the chief of Metropolitan Traffic Police Division. “If only light from the street lamps was brighter, we could have read the number plate on the vehicle,” said Bhattrai.
Although the alleged driver of the vehicle was later caught, the incident shows the importance of well-illuminated streets, which are also essential for the safety of road users, officials say. But in Kathmandu, most streets are not well illuminated as existing street lamps have gone defunct.
“Street lamps are important for any city. But in Kathmandu, most of them are defunct and it has created problems not just for traffic police, but also for general road users," said Bhattrai. He said that many people fall in pits and manholes at night due to lack of adequate light.
Dark street corners become a bigger threat for road users when construction materials are dumped on various stretches of footpaths and holes are left uncovered. “It’s really scary to ride a bicycle at night,” said Lekh Bhatta, 31, an avid cyclist, who fell into a pit a month ago.
“I do not own a vehicle. It’s scary to board the bus as there is a possibility of contracting Covid-19. But in the past two months, I have fallen on the road three times due to inadequate lighting on the streets while returning home on foot,” said Abinash Pradhan, 23, who lives in Sukedhara and works at City Center.
Kathmandu Metropolitan City has 2,987 solar street lamps on its streets, of which 1,285 were installed by the city in 2016. Similarly, 1,700 solar lamps installed by Nepal Electricity under the Asian Development Bank’s “Kathmandu Ujyalo” project came with a price tag of Rs 250 million, but none of the lamps illuminate the road adequately.
“They are there for the sake of it,” said Bhattrai.
Although street lamps have been installed on almost all road sections inside the ring road, only a few seemed to work when the Post visited Maitighar, Tinkune, Kalanki, Tripureshwor, Ratnapark, Chabahil, Gaushala, and Bagbazaar at night.
The dark streets are not only making it difficult to investigate hit and run cases, but also making CCTV cameras ineffective in monitoring other illegal activities. According to police, Kathmandu Valley has a total of 1,414 CCTV cameras keep a watch on Kathmandu.
“The CCTV cameras don’t work at night because the streets are not illuminated,” said Pradip Shrestha, spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police Rani Pokhari.
When the Post contacted Nepal Electricity Authority and Kathmandu Metropolitan City regarding the solar lamps, it said they will be replaced with new ones soon. “An agreement has been signed between Kathmandu Metropolitan City, the Department of Roads, and the NEA to install electric lamps,” said Sagar Gnawali, assistant manager at NEA.
Meanwhile, Ishwor Man Dangol spokesperson for Kathmandu Metropolitan City, said this year the city has allocated around Rs 150 million to replace old solar lamps with electric ones. But, he was not sure when the main roads of the city would be well illuminated for everyone to use the road safely at night.