Waste: Automobile workshop owners in Thimphu are urging relevant agencies like the Road Safety and Transport Authority (RSTA), National Environment Commission and Parliament to frame specific laws regarding discarded off road vehicles.

Although the waste prevention management regulations states that the concerned implementing agency should notify for removal of any non-functional vehicle and machineries, several discarded vehicles can be seen in the Olakha workshop area. Some have been there for many years now.

Section 14 of the regulations state that incase of any non-functional vehicles or machineries that are stranded in one public place, the concerned implementing agency may notify for the removal of such vehicle or machinery within the stipulated notified period failing which the implementing agency or its agency may sell or auction such vehicles or machineries. The owner shall bear any extra costs incurred for removal of such vehicles or machineries as per the regulations.

But the workshop owners said that specific laws are required to tackle the issue since the existing regulation fails to cover the issue comprehensively.

For instance, it is unclear where the workshop owners have to dump the vehicles if owners do not come to take back their vehicles from workshops.

Workshop and landowners raised this issue during a meeting with the Prime Minister on October 18. They said that one of the main reasons for congestion in the workshop is because of the discarded vehicles.

Abandoned vehicles occupy space within workshops and alongside the roads.

“These off-road vehicles have been particularly causing problems in the mid and third alleys of Olakha workshop,” a workshop proprietor Tshering Namgay said.

“There are cars which were manufactured even before we were born,” one of the automobile workshop owners, Norbu Gyeltshen said. He added that the workshop owners are yet to determine how the abandoned vehicles can be disposed.

It is estimated that there are at least 50 such discarded vehicles in the area. Norbu Gyeltshen said that these vehicles mostly consist of old-model Toyota Land Cruisers and Corona sedans from the 1980s and 1990s, and Hiace buses.

Most of the discarded vehicles were brought for repair. “But when these cars couldn’t be fixed, the owners never showed up to take them back,” Norbu Gyeltshen said. He pointed out that numerous attempts to contact the owners of the vehicles had been made but to no avail.

There are also some vehicles that workshop owners bought as scrap to scavenge for spare parts. Norbu Gyeltshen said that in the absence of proper laws and legal guidelines, workshop owners can neither sell nor get rid of these vehicles because of lack of rights over these vehicles. The fear of being dragged to court by the owners is a major impediment.

RSTA chief transport officer Karma Pemba said that the RSTA Act needs the vehicle owners to cancel registration of their vehicles once its non-functional.

“The regulations require auctioning agencies to inform the RSTA while auctioning off-road vehicles for either cancellation or re-registration after repair and compliance with road worthiness,” he said.

He however said that there are no specific provisions on disposal of off-road vehicles in the Act.

National Assembly legislative chairperson, Ritu Raj Chhetri said that the issue is a serious one. He said that while both the Road Safety and Transport Authority and the information and communications ministry are the relevant agencies on the issue, neither has handled the situation because of a lack of laws.

The fear of being taken to court and lack of designated junkyard for discarded vehicles are other impediment. “Since there is no earmarked space for abandoned cars, the workshops have no choice but to cram these vehicles by the roadsides or in open spaces,” Tashi Dungkarling workshop owner, Wangchuk, said.

Responding to the workshop owners during the meeting, Lyonchoen Tshering Tobgay said that a junkyard would be identified at Bjemina to dispose of these cars. “It will be the workshop owners’ responsibility to get these vehicles to the junkyard at Bjemina,” he said.

Once at Bjemina, the owners will be informed and if they still refuse to show up, their vehicles will be auctioned, Lyonchoen said. “We cannot keep these vehicles in Bjemina since the junkyard will also have to be guided on for how long the vehicles can be kept there,” Lyonchoen added.

The Prime Minister however asked the workshop owners to frame an agreement among themselves on a time frame for how long vehicles can be left at a workshop. Lyonchoen suggested that a penalty system be adopted for those customers who fail to abide by the contract.

Lyonchoen also said that there should be a deadline for vehicle repairs and delivery.

However, automobile workshop owners said they would not be able to frame such rules and regulations. “Parliament with relevant stakeholders much initiate the legislation on scrap vehicles in the country against given the rising number of vehicles in the country,” Norbu Gyeltshen said.

Ritu Raj Chhetri said that the rules and regulations on discarded vehicles could be initiated in Parliament. The government can also initiate the legislation of the laws with advice from a parent organisation, he added. “If it comes as an issue presented by its member in Parliament, it can be deliberated in the session and could be taken up by the government,” the legislative chairperson said.

Tempa Wangdi