Thailand's tuktuks take to Bangladesh streets


DHAKA, July 25 (Reuters) - The tuktuk, the popular three-wheeled vehicle widely used in Thailand, made its debut on the crowded streets of the Bangladesh capital Dhaka on Thursday as a replacement for baby taxis blamed for polluting the city.

Bangladeshi company International Project Support Services System Limited (IPSSL) imported the Thai vehicle, which runs on compressed natural gas (CNG), after Bangladesh decided to ban the baby taxis run on petrol.

"The vehicle is completely pollution-free and also environment-friendly," said IPSSL Managing Director Haider Uzzaman, during a formal launch of the tuktuk service.

He said IPSSL would import 1,000 tuktuks by next month from Thai manufacturer Nattachote Industries Company Limited (NICL).

Haider said his company would assemble tuktuks in Bangladesh in a joint venture with NICL with an investment of $500,000.

"The assembling of the vehicle will begin at the start of 2003 at a plant near Dhaka," he said.

He said the plant would assemble about 500 tuktuks a year. The tuktuk will be renamed later, he added.

A three-seater tuktuk will cost 230,000 taka ($4000) and a 10-seater 260,000 taka, he said.

At the launch, Bangladesh Communications Minister Nazmul Huda said the country has banned the baby taxis starting from September 1 in a drive to cut air pollution.

There are about 35,000 baby taxis in Dhaka alone.

Bangladesh, which has 15 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in reserves, has already started converting the engines of cars and other vehicles to run on CNG.