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The private automobile (particularly motorbikes or cars) density would exceed half of the population density in the Kathmandu Valley. Almost every house parks two to three private bike/ car in its premises. This might depict those automobiles as necessity of the people of the valley where road is full of hurdles that restrict the travellers to reach their destinations on time. On the other side, if we observe the motorbikes and cars during traffic jam, most of them would be carrying a single person (driver). Does not this indicate a pure luxury?

Owning an automobile: History in Nepal

Vehicle history is quite new to Nepal. Interestingly, first car didn’t carry people but people carried the first car in Nepal as there were no roads. The first automobile was introduced by Rana which was purely an act of flaunting. Similarly, owning motorbike also does not have a long history. Even almost a decade back, owning a motorbike was not common. It was limited among upper middle class and above. The country’s policy to exercise economic liberalization opened the door for the automobile manufacturers to consider Nepal as one of their markets. This got dramatically magnified after India started manufacturing the automobiles on their own parting with their foreign collaborates in the post liberalization era.

Private automobiles in a Kathmandu traffic jam

Automobile Owning trend: Post 2010

The instant impact of peoples’ movement 2007 was seen in the real estate business of the valley. The price hike of the real estate was so high that it undermined the impacts on other field including automobiles. Though the debate is ongoing and will go forever on what enabled the people invest such lavish amount after the Peoples’ Movement 2007, exponential increment in the investing capacity or particularly buying capacity of the people was visible. For instance, the vehicle registration touched six digit in 2008-2009 which signs the significant increment post People’s Movement. From then onwards, it would not be wrong to say that the ownership trend has increased in geometric progression. The Himalayan Times in its March 23, 2017 edition posted that vehicle registration exceeded 2.5 million.

What signs does the increasing trend show?

The trend shows the increase in the buying capacity of the customers for sure. However, there are many more than that. It also portrays the culture of flaunting among urban dwellers, though owning private vehicles get justified by the pathetic condition of roads and the never ending traffic jams which demand the private vehicle. Having mentioned all these, other indirect signs which are often undermined by the concerned authorities are as follows:

Traffic jam in a service track

1) Overlooking the exponential growth of carbon emission

The latest global Environmental Performance Index (EPI) released by Yale University and Columbia University in collaboration with the World Economic Forum, listed Nepal as the country with the worst air quality as the country was ranked at the bottom among the 180 countries surveyed in terms of air-quality in a global study. Moreover, The World Bank shows the data of carbon emission per capita of the country as 0.3 ton in 2014which latest studies suggest has exceeded 0.6 ton per capita. The data of the report of Piloting Sustainable Urban Transport Index (SUTI) in Kathmandu Valley, Nepal shows the consumption of fossil fuel as follows:

Fiscal Year Petrol Diesel Kerosine
2073/74 149,663,000 201,538,700 5,405,264
2072/73 93,002,000 135,228,600 4,516,057
2071/72 113,216,976 148,837,306 7,678,090
2069/70 90,002,800 119,771,613 10,977,232
Note: In FY 2072/73, India Border Blockade led to the fuel shortage

The data clearly shows the skyrocketing trend of consumption of fossil fuel which obviously contributes to the climate change by producing CO2.

2) Conflicting Government Policies and Practice

Nepal comes among the frontiers of the countries ratifying international conventions, protocols, agendas and declarations to combating climate change and minimizing emission of greenhouse gases. The Country has formally regularized policies to achieve Sustainable Development Goals.

The major target of SDG13 (Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts) is to making half the existing CO2 emission level including from transportation, industrial and commercial sectors. There could have been different promotional acts and special treatments to encourage electric vehicles to develop them as better options of the fossil fuel based automobiles from the government. However, no actions have yet been initiated for the same.  It seems conflicting when government has perceived the fossil fuel based transportation sector as a milk cow of revenues.

Is the Government taking Climate Change for Granted?

The government would give numerous acts, regulations and policies to combat climate change, if a question is raised regarding country’s initiations against climate change. But a policy merely limited in a paper would not bring the desired changes which has been a case of Nepal. Does not this depict irresponsibility of the concerned authority, or are they taking the subject for granted?

There would be numerous vehicles without green stickers in a single traffic jam. Further, numerous automobiles of 20+ years age are frequently seen in the valley. I am afraid if we seek pollution test certificate of the millions Indian vehicles entering the country. These are very few examples of us being irresponsible and/or taking the climate change for granted.

 

To conclude, before implementing the policies related to the transportation and its environmental dimensions, the government must be clear about its take on it. On one side, there does not seem other alternatives to fuel based automobiles in our country due to different factors, and on the other side, heavy tax system sees them as luxury.

Sitaram Dahal

About Sitaram Dahal

Sitaram Dahal is a Sustainable Development and Rural Development Scholar from Nepal. He has been involved in different national and international development organizations for the last 10 years. Sitaram is specialized in Monitoring and Evaluation, especially in quantitative and quality monitoring tools and techniques. He holds Master Degree in Environment Education and Sustainable Development and Master Degree in Rural Development.