EXTENDING the economic life of CNG-run autorickshaws has been a matter of public concern and debate for quite some time now. More than once, the government extended the economic life the auto rickshaws ignoring the concerns of experts and passenger right activists. Against this backdrop, following the owners’ demand to extend the life span of expired vehicles by six more years, Bangladesh Road Transport Authority requested Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology in November 2017 to test the outdated auto-rickshaws to find out whether there is any scope for an extension to the life span the vehicles. Mechanical engineers at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, as New Age reported on Wednesday, recommended against extending the economic life of the auto rickshaws from 15 years to 21 years. Seventy-seven per cent of autorickshaws tested by experts have failed to meet the standard vehicle fitness. In December 2017, a total of 8,465 vehicles on the roads in Dhaka and Chittagong city had expired and now running with a temporary extension till March pending the BUET study results. Considering the risk involved in extending the life span of the three-wheelers, the government should follow the recommendation and not give in to unjust demands of the owners.
After introducing CNG-run auto rickshaws in 2001, the BRTA extended the economic life span of the vehicles three times, initially to nine years, then to 11 years and lastly to 15 years in 2015. Although the life span of the vehicles was extended by fulfilling six conditions, including engine overhauling, hydraulic pressure of high-pressure CNG cylinder test at government-approved workshops, etc, it is evident from the opinion of researchers and experts that those conditions were not fulfilled in reality. Various activist groups as well as experts have, therefore, been raising concern against the extension for years. According to the Passengers’ Welfare Association of Bangladesh, overhauled vehicles could pose higher risk of road accidents and cause serious noise pollution in the cities. The National Committee to Protect Shipping, Roads and Railways also considered the extension to be a threat to passengers’ safety. In addition, the experts from BUET also identified that the old CNG-run autorickshaws cause more emission. Unfortunately, the government has visibly paid no heed to such opinions. It is, indeed, unfortunate that in the face of pressure from vested interests, it has compromised on passenger safety.
The government must, under the circumstances, take an immediate initiative to implement the recommendations of the experts and make arrangement for the withdrawal of overhauled autorickshaws from the road. It must take into account road safety and environmental concern with all sincerity and abandon the alleged alliance with the owners’ association. Citizens’ groups should mobilise themselves and organise campaigns on various negative impacts of overhauled CNG-run autorickshaws to take the government to task.
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