Highly-polluting, diesel-operated three-wheelers, popularly known as Vikrams, will be banished from the roads of Kathmandu from mid-September. The decision was announced recently by minister of tourism and civil aviation Bijay Kumar Gachhadar. Transport entrepreneurs are, however, unhappy over the decision. They say the government decision to exempt 75 per cent customs duty on the import of an alternative vehicle to the Vikrams has "deceived" them.
They argue that the move will render 700 families jobless. The owners feel that the government is discriminating against them. They also argue that the government is simply not taking into account the fact that the Vikram-owners belong to the lower income group. Though the government stopped registering three-wheelers seven years ago, even today around 3,800 continue to ply in the Nepalese capital. Around 700 of these comprise Vikrams. In recent times Vikrams have been faced with boycotts from tourism and environment activists. Nevertheless, they continue to enjoy popularity from thousands of the capital's hard-hit commuters who suffer from a very badly-managed city transportation system. Plying side- by-side with Vikrams and other three-wheelers are the battery and liquefied petroleum gas-powered vehicles.
Environmentalists say that though the latter type have helped reduce air pollution, they have added to the capital's already noto rious traffic congestion. The finance bill, passed during the ongoing budget session of Parliament, provides among other things an exemption of 75 per cent customs duty on the import of a micro bus with a capacity of 10 to 14 people. However, not too many seem glad about it. "The budget announcement has literally deceived us," says Sarad Prasad Upreti, chairman of Federation of Nepalese Transport Entrepreneurs.
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