Sri Lanka to restrict import of tuk-tuks

Colombo: Sri Lanka plans to restrict imports of tuk-tuks in a bid to reduce road accidents and congestion, the country’s transport minister said Friday.

Almost a fifth of road fatalities in Sri Lanka are caused by the ubiquitous three-wheel taxis, known locally as “trishaws”, which are also choking the road network, minister Nimal Siripala de Silva said.

“We have over a million trishaws and our roads cannot take any more,” he told parliament, adding that while the government cannot impose a blanket ban on imports, it would limit them.

Sri Lanka has about 1.2 million tuk-tuks according to official data, almost all of them brought over from neighbouring India and many in poor condition.

In the absence of public mass transit options, the rickety three-wheelers are a popular transport option as well as a key source of employment, with an increasing number of young men becoming rickshaw drivers.

But in January this year authorities tightened the rules governing tuk-tuks, citing safety concerns.

Among the new rules it said each must have head and tail lights while making it an offence for drivers to smoke while carrying passengers.

Sri Lanka’s taxi unions have also pressed the government to limit the import of rickshaws, saying the market is over-saturated.