The Ministry of Transport is drafting regulations that will limit applications for private vehicles via a bidding process, in an effort to halt further congestion of cities such as Male’.
“The idea is to control the rising number of vehicles on the streets of Male’,” said Transport Minister Adhil Saleem. “73 percent of people on the street are pedestrians, but the streets are small, especially with two rows of parked motorbikes, and pedestrians are being pinned against the wall.”
The new regulations, which will soon be published in the government’s gazette, will see a certain number of license numbers released to the public each year through public auction. The numbers will go to the applicants who score the most points, and not necessarily the highest bidder.
60 points will be allocated for vehicles with zero emissions, 50 points to the highest bidder, and 10 points for brand new fossil fuel vehicles. No points will be given for imported second hand vehicles, Adhil explained.
“We estimate that this will mean it will cost Rf100,000-200,000 (US$6485-12970) to put a brand new electric vehicle on the road, and Rf300,000-400,000 (US$19455-25940) to put a fossil fuel vehicle on the road,” he said.
The Ministry is also seeking to reform the taxis, Adhil said, which were currently operated like private vehicles rather than as a professional service.
“It’s encouraging the number of taxi drivers who have switched to driving the new buses. I think the scheme has been very successful. Already we can see little improvements in order on the main streets where the buses travel,” he said.
Co-founder of local environmental NGO Bluepeace, Ali Rilwan, said the bidding scheme sounded positive as long as it did not put vehicle ownership only within reach of the privileged.
Male’ already was way beyond its capacity for vehicles, he said. “More high rises are going up and there is just enough room for pedestrians.”
“When school kids come out on a road like Chandhanee Magu there is no space and the road closes,” Rilwan said.
It was a “good question” as to why so many cars and motorbikes were needed on a 2.2 square kilometre island, he noted.
“It’s a fashionable thing – it’s trendy for people to spend their free time riding around.”
People needed to be encouraged to use bicycles, he said, but said many were put off by the high rate of theft.
“Fifteen years ago bicycles had to be registered with a number plate. But when registration was relaxed in the late 1980s, the police were no longer able to identify bicycles and they were frequently stolen. People mark chickens and coconut trees on the islands, but not bicycles.”
It was not uncommon for a student to have to buy 7-10 bicycles during his school life, Rilwan said.