THE STATE OF THE ROADSAh monsoon! The season we all wait for with much gusto; when the rain is supposed to rid the city of pollutants in the air, unravel clean black roads and a vibrant blue sky when not adorned with beautiful black thunderous clouds. At least, that’s what it is supposed to be like, and what was true a decade or two back. Nowadays, it seems as if the government has bitten off too large a piece of the pie; a project that never seems to see an end. We, as citizens of this country, have survived a few too many special circumstances in the past and far too many in the recent few decades. Isn’t it time we see some light at the end of the tunnel?

In the fiscal year of 2071-72, the government collected revenue more than 12 billion rupees from vehicle related taxes, which saw a 4-billion-rupee increase from the previous fiscal year. Out of which almost 5 billion rupees is just from the Bagmati region. These numbers have been on an uphill climb since who knows when, but the condition of the roads, the condition of the environment, the agony of traffic, all have been going downhill for just as long. The only slightly appreciable action taken by the government so far has been the road expansion project, that too not without its own scandals.

From the data I’ve been able to collect from government reports and financial analysis reports, the government of Nepal was able to add a whopping 404km of road (black-topped, gravel and earthen roads) combined all over Nepal. The total road network of Nepal is now at 12900km according to the data from the Department of Roads. Now compare that to our neighbour India, where they set a target of constructing 59,000km of road by 2018, and by the year 2016-17 they had already completed construction of 47500km of roads.

India might not be a fair comparison, you might say, and it might be true. India doesn’t have to deal with the vastly differing terrain like we have to. But why shouldn’t we compare our road projects with India? We might not be able to compete along the lines of the scope of their projects that go into the thousands of billions of rupees, but we can at least take a page out of their books on how to get things done at a prompt time. Like how many Dashain’s have gone by where we’ve heard the infamous Melamchi water will rid the valley of its water woes? How many years have we been patiently waiting for the esteemed Hetauda fast-track? How many politicians have we heard say they’ll make Kathmandu pollution free within a few years?

The severe lack of professionalism from all aspects in Nepal, have led us to this situation I believe. The public is fiercely angry with the government for not being able to provide better roads, public transport, and sky-high vehicle taxes. But the public also doesn’t perform its civic duties of keeping the government in check. If we don’t like the skyhigh taxes the government charges us and we feel like our tax money is being misused, have we bothered to raise our voices? Have we ever bothered to raise our voices to the contractors that only seem to pave roads during the monsoon season (aka Asarey Bikas)? In effect, these contractors are being paid by us, and we’re letting them loot us of millions and billions every year to do a crappy job at paving roads that only last a few months at the most.

On the other hand, we’ve also seen how effectively these contractors can work overnight when a certain high-profile person from a neighbouring country comes to visit. I mean it was jaw-dropping to see a stretch of road full of potholes and uneven levels get buttery smooth overnight with lane markings. Only if the rate of work done was like that every time, but that might be wishful thinking on my part. As said above, we don’t have to work at India’s pace of adding 150km of roads a day. Us Nepali people, we’re an understanding and flexible bunch, just give us what we paid for.

One might recall a few incidents that went viral on social media this past year: a few kids being swallowed by open drains along the ring road, Chabahil-Boudha- Jorpati road ceasing to exist, the environmental chaos laid upon by the Melamchi project, videos of monks and celebrities constructing roads that have been left bare by the government, etc. The list goes on and on, and it’s heart-breaking to see the state of the roads in the capital and leaves us to our imagination what the state of the roads might be in other parts of the country.

THE STATE OF THE ROADSWe constantly keep on complaining about how bad everything is here in our country, but I say, we have a part to play in it too. We’re all very good at being armchair activists when it comes to complaining and putting fault on someone else, but we should also be just as good at taking these matters to where it has an optimum impact. With the federalization of the states, the government has given a lot of power to the local governments and these governments are more accessible and answerable to us now more than ever. All it takes for us, is to raise a unified voice to our dissatisfaction that we see in our locality to make the necessary changes.

With growing urbanization, owning private transportation has become a need more than a luxury. The dire state of the public transport system that is either running over capacity most of the time or simply because cabs for hire never agree to go on fare or to the desired location, the convenience of owning a private vehicle is far greater than to not. Which is also the reason we see an increase in the number of vehicle imports year to year despite the cost of ownership going up the same way.

If only we had proper roads, I imagine, our country would benefit at a level we may never be able to comprehend. If only we had better roads, we might have a proper flow of vehicles, leading to vehicles operating at optimum city speeds, leading to reduced emissions leading to better health of our citizens, smooth roads leading to reduced vehicular maintenance costs and reduced road maintenance costs, all of which benefit the country in a positive way. So can we please do something about the state of our roads, for us to see a better future?

Contributed by Kalash Ratna Tuladhar, Founder at Iron Monk Works:
Mr. Tuladhar is a graduate from the Minnesota State University in Automotive Engineering Technology. He formerly worked for MV Agusta and Bikers Nepal as the Head of after sales.






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