When thousands of CNG-powered vehicles operate with run-down cylinders, the slightest possibility of extending their lifespan is a worrying development on government’s part. The government is considering a proposal to extend the economic life of CNG auto-rickshaws, as New Age reported on Sunday, running in Dhaka and Chittagong by six more years. It will be a fatally risky move on the government’s part as it may pose serious threat of accidents as the cylinders have not been retested for a while. In addition, it will also have negative impact on the environment. The latest proposal on the table came after the Dhaka Metropolitan CNG Auto-Rickshaw Owners’ Association applied to the road transport and bridges ministry seeking an extension to the vehicle lifespan. The vehicles at stake were first introduced in Dhaka and Chittagong with a lifespan of nine years in 2002. In 2011, the authorities extended the lifespan by two more years. After experts of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, Military Institute of Science and Technology and Chittagong University of Engineering and Technology had examined the vehicles, the lifespan of auto-rickshaw was again extended by four more years. All this while the government chose to ignore the opposing views of passenger rights groups and environmental activists who strongly disapproved the government’s move to allow overuse vehicles to ply the road.
In the past 15 years, the lifespan of auto-rickshaws has been extended by fulfilling six conditions which include testing hydraulic pressure of high-pressure CNG cylinders at government-approved workshops and checking other parts of the CNG fuel system. However, these conditions are allegedly only fulfilled on paper. The government should pay meticulous attention to the road safety and environmental concerns raised by various civic groups before making the final decision on the extension of auto-rickshaws from 2002. Drawing from their research, experts from BUET showed how emission from old vehicles has more negative environmental impact on Bangladesh. Representatives from the Passengers’ Welfare Association of Bangladesh suggested that the overhauled vehicles are not only at higher risk of causing road accidents, but also causes serious noise pollution in the cities. Considering the risk that successive governments have taken by extending the lifespan of overhauled vehicles on the road, it is a mistaken claim when the rights groups are suggesting that the government is only ensuring profit margins of the vehicle owners. In order to gain the trust of the citizens of the city, the authorities concerned should by no means hurriedly make a decision on the matter. Instead, they should immediately make arrangement of a thorough examination of run-down auto-rickshaws.
The government should take in to account the citizen groups’ road safety and environmental concerns with all sincerity and abandon the alleged alliance with the owners’ association. To take the government to task, citizens’ groups should mobilise themselves and organise campaigns on various negative impacts of overhauled CNG auto-rickshaws.
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