Aastha Subba, an officer at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, died in a motorcycle accident on 3rd November 2022. She was hit by a speeding motorcyclist at the east gate of Singha Durbar while returning home after finishing her office work.
She was taken to Kathmandu Model Hospital for treatment after suffering significant injuries in the motorcycle accident. However, she could not be saved.
Subba was working in the United Nations Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. She joined the Foreign Service in 2012 and had also served at the Nepali Embassy in Israel.
According to government statistics, approximately 40 road accidents occur in Nepal every day, resulting in 3,000 fatalities and 15,000 injuries annually. However, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there are approximately 100,000 injuries and 5,000 fatalities due to traffic accidents each year in Nepal.
Road Safety Issues in Nepal
In the run up to the November 20 federal and provincial elections, major political parties included the issue of road safety in their manifestos. This is likely the first time in Nepal’s history that clear electoral promises have been made regarding both public transport and road safety.
The three major parties, Nepali Congress, CPN (Maoist Center), and CPN (UML), have included a number of proposals in their manifestos that take into account measures for enhancing road safety, managing urban public transportation, building alternative transportation infrastructure, and improving the health and capacity of transportation workers (especially drivers). The parties have ensured to take pedestrian safety into consideration when building future road infrastructure in order to ensure the safety of all road users, including pedestrians. They have also pledged to strengthen drivers’ licensing system, conduct regular mechanical inspections of automobiles, and establish a special court to handle cases involving accident victims.
- A Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model project will be implemented with a suitable ICT (digitized) monitoring system for metropolitan regions. All of the information, including traffic, parking, toll booths, public transportation, restaurants, etc., will be digitalized during this procedure. Additionally, a system that uses artificial intelligence to monitor citizen concerns around-the-clock will be made available.
- Special types of bridges with greater lengths will be created in tunnels, rivers, and deep gorges to improve the efficiency of the road infrastructure.
- The building of cable cars for transportation shall be promoted where there is potential and viability.
- In urban regions, mass transit systems and large-scale public transportation methods will be promoted.
- The federal government and all major/sub-major/municipalities along with all major/sub-major/municipalities shall jointly establish the valley’s public transportation system. The Valley Transport Authority shall be in-charge of delivering an accessible and secure transportation system.
- The process of designing and promoting infrastructures like Pedestrian Friendly roads, Overhead Bridges, and Disability-Friendly Bus-Stops shall be substantially improved while planning, designing, and building all the roads to reduce traffic accidents.
- The percentage of electric vehicles on the road will rise to 50% during the next five years.
According to experts on road safety, the parties should be clear on road safety issues and how to implement them. “It will be necessary to ensure the systematic design of roads, bridges, footpaths, tunnels, or tunnels that include road safety and address the cost and human resource management necessary for that when making plans for new infrastructure in the future in order to fulfill the commitments made in the manifesto of the Nepali Congress,” said Dr. Pushpa Raj Pant, a researcher at the West of England University at Bristol, the United Kingdom.
- A contemporary road with at least two lanes will be built, with the requisite service facilities, rest breaks, and preparations for road safety. The road will be made environmentally friendly. Regular maintenance plans will ensure that the road is free of potholes and trash.
- Road distances will be shortened to cut down on transportation expenses, travel time, and auto damage. Modern tunnels and bridges will be constructed, and roads will be straightened. High-streets will be created along main streets in large cities.
- All major cities, including Kathmandu Valley, will have the necessary studies to operate contemporary transportation systems including Metro Rail, Urban Cable Car, and Subway.
- Roads that frequently experience accidents will be identified, and attention will be given to their repair and development.
- Electric vehicle use will be encouraged. In metropolitan areas, the use of large electric vehicles will be promoted. Settlements that are not easily accessible by road will be equipped with graded walkways, cable cars, and other possible options.
- Periodic physical examinations of drivers and mechanical inspections of cars will be required.
- The public transportation system will be designed so that transportation firms manage public transportation, transportation committees safeguard and coordinate the rights and interests of transportation experts, and transportation management organizations facilitate, direct, oversee, and control all aspects of transportation management.
- In collaboration with the federal, state, and local levels, a public transit authority will be developed and managed. There will be the construction of a contemporary parking facility. The traffic management system will be switched over to digital.
- Urban roadways and public areas will have CC cameras installed for civil safety.
“The CPN (UML) identifies accident sites more precisely than Congress does, assures to improve road maintenance to stop accidents from happening again, lower costs by building bridges over roads so that travel distances for passenger vehicles are as short as possible, and eventually install a large number of CCTV cameras. It has committed to investigating how the accident occurred and creating a system to gather information so that the proper course of action may be taken,” said Dr Pant.
CPN (Maoist Center)
- Construction of monorail will be started in Bagmati, Bishnumati, Dhovikhola and Manohara corridors of Kathmandu Valley. The metro rail project will be taken up around the ring road and on the Budhanilkantha-Sanepa and Thankot-Sanga sections.
- Arrangements will be made to operate at least 500 electric buses in Kathmandu Valley. Arrangements will be made to operate electric transport in all major cities from provinces and municipalities.
- A competent Transport Management Authority will be constituted to facilitate and secure the involvement and regulation of public transport by the state. The authority will lead policy, structural and systemic reforms in the transport sector.
- An Integrated Transport Management Act will be created by modifying the existing policy and legal arrangements related to transport management.
- A social security program will be implemented for self-employed businessmen and workers in the transport sector. Similarly, concessional loans will be provided when conducting transport business through collective companies and cooperatives.
- A technical school will be established in each province to increase the capacity of drivers and make the transport sector safer.
- Driving education will be included in the secondary level curriculum.
- Modern refreshment centers with public toilets will be established in high traffic areas including highways.
- Efforts will be made to establish an accident bench to prevent the increasing number of road accidents and to ensure that accident victims get speedy justice.
- Total, Pathao, Indrive, etc., which are working informally in the field of public transport, will be brought into the formal scope and regulated and encouraged.
- To build a clean city, a long-term plan for waste processing and management will be implemented in coordination with local municipalities. Roads in urban areas will be provided with street lights, footpaths and where possible, greenery zones.
- Mandatory measures to build disabled-friendly structures in all office buildings, educational institutions, hospitals, roads and other public places will be enforced.
Out of all the major parties, the CPN (Maoist Center) has mentioned it in the most detail. It refers to increasing the capacity of transportation workers, including drivers, as well as health services and social security. “The CPN (Maoist Center) appears to be more appealing than other parties when it comes to issues like the incorporation of vehicle safety instruction in secondary schools and the creation of an accident bench at the courts for the administration of justice to accident victims. The topic of ride-sharing has been brought up by the Maoists, and it is crucial for urban transportation that this industry be regulated and supported,” said Dr. Pant.
Apart from these three major parties, the CPN (United Socialist) appears to be dabbling in transport management and road safety, but in its manifesto, it is more focused on abolishing what it calls current transport syndicate system and making public transportation cheap, accessible, and competitive. “It seems that there is a lack of updated information about the current transport management system of the country under the leadership of the CPN (United Socialist) by using the term ”transport syndicate,” which was officially abolished by the government of Nepal a few years ago,” said Dr. Pant.
However, there is no mention of road safety in the manifesto of Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP).
According to Padma Kanya Campus Lecturer and Road Safety Researcher Bhagwati Sedhai, the number of people killed, injured, and disabled in Nepal as a result of traffic accidents is comparable to an epidemic, but little is being done to stop it.
The Awful Problem of Road Traffic Crashes
“In light of the horrible situation with road accidents, it is encouraging to see that political parties have taken notice of the importance of road safety and have included it in their platforms. The next issue is how the parties proceed to reduce traffic accidents. In order to prevent road accidents in Nepal in the future, we should therefore evaluate the strategies that have been successful elsewhere and go forward with the experts’ advice,” Sedhain added.
National Road Safety Network Nepal met with the leaders of the main parties while the parties were writing the manifesto and requested that they include the topic of road safety in their manifesto. Govinda Bhattarai, an activist on road safety and the program director of the National Road Safety Network Nepal, says that some positive effects have been seen.
“In the context of Nepal, road safety is not only human, economic, and social, but also a consumer and human rights issue,” said Bhattarai adding, “Now, we have to see how honest the parties are towards their own manifestos. Secondly, the government of Nepal has almost completed the national action plan on road safety, and its successful implementation is our main task from now on. Third, there is total unity at the civic level for safe roads and vehicles, and the door is opening for stronger collaboration, which is a positive aspect,” he added.
Foreign Ministry official Aastha Subba, who died in a road accident in the capital, is survived by her husband and a baby boy. They will be attentively observing whether or not the parties implement what they stated in their manifesto.
Ms Aryal is a member of Youth for Road Safety Nepal (Yours Nepal)