When any road accident takes the lives of many people, the top level authorities pledge to control such mishaps by any means. They also promise to make sweeping reforms in road engineering and check traffic pressure for preventing the life-threatening accidents. But what is ironic is that they often seem to forget their commitment unless and until another equally horrifying vehicular accident occurs.
Nepal witnesses more road accidents during the festival season as compared to normal times of the year. This is due mainly to people’s increased mobility. Reckless driving, narrow and shoddy roads, operation of rickety vehicles and absence of proper monitoring of the surface transport system are some of the key factors leading to deadly road mishaps. Difficult terrains, countless bends on roads and lack of regular repairs of roads and vehicles are also responsible for the killer accidents.
Since the start of this year’s Dashain, the country has witnessed several road accidents with dozens of fatalities. Such unimaginable mishaps have really brought sorrows to many families and caused a grief and fear among one and all as they have happened during the greatest Hindu festival. The Karnali Highway is one of the highways where vehicular accidents are rampant. Each year, hundreds of locals as well as outsiders die in numerous accidents on this highway. It is appalling that well over 600 people were killed in the mishaps in the past three years alone. For this reason, the Karnali Highway has lost its reputation and is known as the ‘death highway.’
During this year’s Dashain, too, the highway was in the spotlight after 32 people died in an accident that took place at the Pinatpane Khola in Chhayanath Rara Municipality-7 of Mugu district on Fulpati (October 12). Of them, 24 were killed on the spot. The vehicle is believed to have skidded off the road and fell about 300 metres down after one of its front tyres got punctured. Most deceased were students and others who were returning to their respective hometowns to celebrate Dashain. Of them, 22 were male and the remaining 10 female. The remaining ones have been receiving treatment. With 45 passengers, the ill-fated bus was on the way to Gamgadhi, the headquarters of Mugu district, from Nepalgunj.
Similarly, eight students died in a jeep accident that occurred in Ghandruk village of Annapurna Rural Municipality in Kaski district just one day before the Mugu incident. The bad road condition was to blame for the misfortune of those youngsters. They were there to experience trekking in Ghandrunk and neighbouring areas of the world-famous Annapurna Region. Four persons were also killed on October 10 when a vehicle that was carrying wedding attendants fell about 200 metres down a track full of dirt in Panchadewal Binayak Municipality-1 of Achham district.
It is sad to note that Nepal has one of the highest death rates triggered by road mishaps in the world. Some 2,500 people die in vehicular accidents across the country annually. Another worrisome side is that thousands of others get wounded. Some of them end up in long-term disability. All this indicates that road accidents are a serious problem in the country. During the past five years, the country recorded as many as 46,712 road mishaps in which almost 11,950 people were killed. According to reports, road accidents surged by an annual average of 7 per cent, 22 per cent and 17 per cent in 2017-18 2018-19 and 2019-20, respectively.
Given this scenario, the responsible authorities must prioritise road safety and ensure that all possible measures are taken to make the country’s road transportation safe.