In an official visit to Nepal, World Bank Vice President for the South Asia Region, Hartwig Schafer, and UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Road Safety, Jean Todt, underscored the urgency of action on road safety to save lives and boost economic growth.
During their visit, Schafer and Todt met with Honorable Minister of Physical Infrastructure and Transport Raghubir Mahaseth, and senior officials at the Ministry and Road Safety Council. The meetings deliberated on Nepal’s road safety agenda and important progress being made with the drafting of the Road Safety Bill, formation of the National Road Safety Council, and updating of the Road Safety Action Plan. A meeting with civil society organizations was also held, with fruitful discussion on bicycle and women’s road safety.
“We are encouraged by the commitment of the Government of Nepal to address road safety issues,” stated Hartwig Schafer. “It is important to expedite the enactment of the Road Safety Bill and fully empower the Nepal Road Safety Council, so it is adequately staffed and sustainably financed.”
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) global estimates, every year about 1.35 million people lose their lives on the road, and millions more sustain serious injuries that often result in permanent disability. Nepal has one of the highest rates of road deaths in the region, with roughly 16 road deaths per 100,000 people a year. As per WHO 2015 estimates, road traffic accidents in Nepal also result in an annual cost of 0.8% of GDP.
“The geographic landscape of Nepal makes its challenges special. However, we know the basic foundations that need to be in place to effectively manage road safety everywhere: strong governance, safe infrastructure, good road user behavior, safe vehicles, and effective post-crash care,” stated Jean Todt. “I encourage Nepal to join and fully implement the key UN road safety conventions, which help countries address the major causes of road crashes through a strong regulatory framework.”
Nepal has pledged its commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals, including the ambitious target of halving the number of global deaths and injuries caused by road crashes. While Nepal firms up its legislation and institutional frameworks to ensure road safety, implementation will be key to bring to fruition the country’s commitment towards safe, affordable, accessible, and sustainable transport systems.
“I appreciate the government’s efforts to update the National Road Safety Plan with clear ambitious targets, complemented by a strong empowered road safety agency for effective coordination in implementation. It is only through concrete actions that we will achieve our Sustainable Development Goal of significantly reducing the number of road fatalities. I look forward to our further joint efforts,” added Todt.
It is estimated that South Asia will need an extra $118 billion for road safety in the coming decade. To help close the gap, the World Bank-hosted Global Road Safety Facility has been mobilizing resources from donor governments and foundations, while the recently created UN Road Safety Fund will have a strong focus on improving national road safety systems. It has also been estimated that for South Asia as a whole, a 50% reduction in road deaths is expected to generate a gross benefit of about $1.2 trillion, making the case for road safety investment stronger than ever.
“In Nepal, the World Bank’s engagement in road infrastructure started in 1970 where road safety has been an integral part of our connectivity projects. Jointly with the United Nations, we look forward to partnering with Nepal to make its traffic safer and help accelerate growth, reduce poverty and promote shared prosperity,” added Schafer.