Understaffed traffic police face multiple problems
KATHMANDU, Jan 12: With the number of vehicles ever increasing in the Kathmandu Valley, the Metropolitan Traffic Police Division (MTPD) is finding it difficult to manage the vehicular traffic, given its lack of adequate manpower and infrastructures.
In 1994, there were 550 traffic personnel to manage 94,000 vehicles in the Kathmandu Valley. At that time, the total road length of the Valley was 1,319 kilometers. In the past 18 years, the Valley has seen five-fold increase in the number of vehicles while the length of road has slightly increased to 1594.67 km.
But in the past 18 years, only 338 traffic personnel have been added to the traffic police force. Only five traffic police have been added in the last four years though the number of vehicles has doubled during the period. In 2009, there were 885 traffic police personnel at the division.
With the limited manpower, one traffic police has to manage 672 vehicles on an average during peak hours and cover 1.65 km at one time, say MTPD officials.
In the Valley, the density of vehicles per square kilometer is 406.71 -- over 400 vehicle occupy one km road in the Valley.
When Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai directed the MTPD in August 2011 to improve traffic system in the Valley, the directive came as a tough order for the already under-staffed traffic police who still use hand signals to guide traffic.
The Kathmandu Valley Town Development Authority has widened road sections at Kamal Pokhari, Nag Pokhari, Lainchaur, Jaya Nepal Hall, Kalimati, Min Bhawan, Baneshwar and Tinkune areas.
Traffic cops busy at Thapathali. (Photo: Keshab Thoker)
After the roads were widened, traffic congestion has improved slightly but this is not sufficient as feeder roads too need to be expanded, said Metropolitan Traffic Police Division Chief Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Upendra Kanta Aryal. He also added that the Department of Roads needs to immediately construct pavements on the widened roads as pedestrians have been using roadsides.
More than 800,000 vehicles were registered in Bagmati zone alone until the last fiscal year and this is over half of the total number of vehicles registered in the country. Altogether 1.34 million vehicles were registered by the end of the fiscal year 2012/13, according to Chandra Prasad Phuyal, director of the Department of Transport Management.
If all the vehicles in the Valley are brought onto the roads at once then just 600,000 vehicles will occupy the whole road length and the remaining vehicles will have no space, traffic officials said.
As the government does not have major road improvement project, it is extremely necessary to make the traffic police well-equipped with technology and skills, officials said. Only a few traffic signals are functional whereas street lights remain defunct during power cuts. MTPD Spokesperson Deputy Superintendant of Police (DSP) Pawan Giri feels that installing CCTV cameras at crowded roads could be a solution to curb traffic rule violations and better manage the traffic movement.
Similarly, use of bigger transport vehicles by replacing the micro buses and introducing tighter route permit system could provide long-term solution to the congestion, according to him.
He added that each traffic police works for 12-18 hours every day whereas they work for 21 hours during special operation against drink-driving during festivals.
According to MTPD chief it is obvious for a person to get irritated and distressed due to hectic duty, so his division is working to provide couselling and health and fitness trainings for traffic police personnel.
He said although additional 200 traffic police were temporarily deployed from Nepal Police after the expansion of 28-unit MTPD to 33 units, defunct traffic signals and streets lights have been a major problem.
Hectic work schedule of Koteshwar cops
When the Tinkune-Suryabinayak 9.1 km extended six-lane road came into operation two years ago, road accidents and fatalities also increased in the area. Speeding drivers would lose control of their vehicles and pedestrians crossing the road would also get run over.
Around 15 people died in separate accidents within three months after the six-lane road opened. Now it was the responsibility of the MTPC, Koteshwar to make pedestrians and drivers aware on how to drive on the road that was constructed following marked rise in the numer of heavy vehicles coming from Sindhuli and Nepal-China border.
MTPC was recently awarded for its outstanding work in controlling road accidents, regulating disciplined vehicular movement, and maintaining proper records among all 33 valley-based traffic units by Nepal Police.
"With the limited number of traffic personnel, each traffic police on an average has to work for up to 16 hours a day," said Inspector Hobindra Bogati, the in-charge of MTPC, Koteshwar. He added that implementing the UN Charter on Labor was a far cry for traffic police personnel due to swelling traffic pressure.
"Although the UN charter calls for an eight-hour work day, I don´t remember when was the last time I worked for only eight hours," added Bogati. Work stress would ease if at least 70 traffic police personnel are deployed at MTPC, Koteshwar, he said.
A traffic police at Koteshwar manages around 1500-2000 vehicles during peak hours -- 8 to 11 in the mornings and 4 to 7 in the evenings. But the office is currently manned by just 53 traffic police and 13 of them are women. The circle covers the area from Gatthaghar of Bhaktapur to Sinamangal, Tinkune, Baneshwar, Buddhanagar and Babar Mahal area, said Bogati.
Though the number of accidents have declined in the six-lane road section, their challenges are not yet over as the pavements in most of the area from Tinkune and Babarmahal were also demolished during the road widening campaign. Pedestrians are forced to walk along the roadside and as a result cases of hit and run are seen in the area, said the traffic Inspector.
Vehicles increased five-fold in 18 years in the Valley
550 traffic personnel for 94,000 vehicles in 1994
888 traffic personnel for 800,000 vehicles in 34 units including MTPD headquarters
Traffic police work 12-18 hours every day
1 traffic police manages 672 vehicles and covers 1.62 km road length