Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Promoting road safety and clean air in Kathmandu

This is the second article in a series coming in from Nepal, showing how the combination of traffic restraint and the push toward the creation of pedestrian- friendly areas is giving results in their capital city. The reader should bear in mind that the traffic situation on most of the city streets is extremely chaotic and dangerous, above all as a result of the explosion of fast-moving two wheelers. The city also suffers from major air quality problems due to a noxious combination of heavy traffic, dirty engines, thin air, natural meteorological factors and its location in the high Kathmandu Valley.

Pedestrianisation promotes road safety and clean air in Kathmandu

- Charina Cabrido, Clean Air Initiatives for Asian Cities. Kathmandu, Nepal.

The Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) recently closed the Hanumandhoka Durbar Square from all kinds of vehicles as part of the government’s initiative to preserve the monument zones and reestablish the World Heritage Site as pedestrian friendly area. This aims to secure the safety of people walking in the city.

In Kathmandu, large portions of the population prefer to walk. In fact, 18.1 percent of daily trips are made entirely on foot, and of the nearly 56.5 percent of the commuters who use different modes of public transport, a large percentage walk as part of their daily commute.

However, inadequate planning has lead to many unnecessary fatalities and injuries. According to a study conducted by Kathmandu Valley Mapping Program (KVMP), pedestrians account for up to 40 percent of all fatalities in Kathmandu City in 2001.

The Clean Air Initiatives for Asian Cities and Clean Energy Nepal proposed for the implementation of exclusive zones for non – motorized transit within congested urban zones based from the results of its walkability survey.

What KMC has done is something that we must applaud. Urban cities with improved land use and transportation planning deliberately include pedestrianising streets to contribute to good health and quality of life. Based on a study made by the WorldWatch Institute, a short, four-mile round trip of walking helps reduce 15 pounds of pollutants in the air that we breathe.

Heritage Walk Project in Hanumandhoka Durbar Square

The heritage walk project in Hanumandhoka Durbar Square motivates people to take action to improve Kathmandu’s air quality. It reminds us that walking is the most socially inclusive mode of transport and is available to most people, regardless of age, gender, education or income. When you walk, you contribute to the creation of a healthy environment by reducing traffic congestion, air and noise pollution and creating a safer, more social and liveable community.



It also creates a good impression for many visiting tourists in this country that there are safer and quieter roads that is designed entirely for the people. Pedestrian facilities that create safe and attractive environments with a range of amenities will encourage walking and attract visitors to these areas.

Pedestrian-friendly urban design is one of the key enabling conditions for effective transit systems. It tends to lower crime rates and accidents. With the segregation of people from vehicles, the safety of pedestrian and transportation abilities are greatly improved.

The concept of pedestrianisation is relatively simple, its benefits almost immediately apparent, but its implementation is hardly easy. This is not only part of KMC’s turf, it is everybody’s responsibility that road security practices are being followed to ensure that safer and quieter roads bind us all.


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Background article from the Kathmandu Post, 17 April 2010:
Source: http://www.ekantipur.com/the-kathmandu-post/2010/04/17/top-stories/Basantapur-an-amblers-paradise/207301/

To conserve Basantapur Durbar Square, a UNESCO world heritage site, the local administration on Saturday announced a ban on vehicular movement within the area. Ambulances and other emergency vehicles will, however, be allowed to ply there.

Programme chief of the Hanumandhoka Durbar Square Conservation Programme that falls under the Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC), Harikumar Shrestha, said on Saturday that the fresh restrictions will come into effect from Sunday. The authorities will also impose a ban on political meetings and other gatherings in the area. Cultural programmes, however, are permitted.

The Kathmandu Metropolitan City had earlier imposed a ban on vehicular movement there, but it was not implemented largely due to lack of cooperation from locals and other stakeholders.

According to Shrestha, a meeting between representatives of Nepal Police, Traffic Police, Kathmandu Metropolis and the District Administration decided to impose the restrictions. They felt that vehicular movement and encroachment in the area were posing a threat to monuments there.

“The move also comes at a time when tourists visiting the historic site are facing difficulties due to vehicular movement there,” Shrestha said. He requested residents, local clubs, organisations and political parties to help the authorities create a “hassle-free” environment for tourists.

The authorities have further come up with alternative routes for vehicles to ease the traffic congestion that will result after the move is implemented. While vehicles coming from New Road and Ason will pass through Indrachowk, Suraj Arcade and to Phyphal, those coming from the opposite direction will follow the same route to reach New Road.

In addition, the KMC plans to put an end to the evening market in the area. The market has been thriving for the past eight years despite strong opposition from locals.

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About the author:
Charina Cabrido is an environmental researcher, a writer and a cycling advocate who is working for sustainable urban transport in Kathmandu, Nepal. She is currently associated with the Clean Air Initiatives for Asian Cities, an organization that is active in 8 country networks and over 170 organizational members to promote and demonstrate innovative ways to improve the air quality in Asian cities through partnerships and sharing experiences. Charina currently leads the Walkability Index Survey in Kathmandu to promote improvements in pedestrianisation infrastructures and services. She is also active in developing mass education, awarness and media campaign related to Air Quality Management issues in Nepal through the Clean Air Network Nepal.

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