Actress Michelle Yeoh for improved road safety in India (IANS Interview)

She zoomed through the streets of Bangkok on a superbike with Pierce Brosnan in the James Bond flick "Tomorrow Never Dies", but Hollywood actress Michelle Yeoh mostly doesn't feel the need for speed. Road safety is a key element in the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and India has a key role in their delivery, says the UNDP Goodwill Ambassdor for SDGs.

"You have a great amount of infrastructure that is coming up along with many, many new highways. Also, there is great increase in urbanisation. And on your roads it's many wheels -- four wheels, two wheels and then four legs, two legs," the Malaysian-born Yeoh, who was here for the just-concluded Naropa festival at the famed 17th century Hemis monastery, 40 km from here, told IANS in an interview.

"But we are very persistent in ensuring that India will also be a very crucial part of road safety which also counts toward the sustainable development goals of the UNDP," said Yeoh, whose first notable role was as Colonel Wai Lin, a Chinese spy and Bond associate.

In this context, she lauded the road signs in Ladakh with messages like "Life is short, but don't make it shorter" and "Don't speed and drive".

"These signs remind you to drive sensibly and this is what we are trying to create awareness (about) across the globe. And in India, we are particularly hard because there are really a lot of challenges ahead," said Yeoh, who survived last year's devastating earthquake in Nepal and is equally renowned for her advocacy and philanthropic efforts.

Noting that driving on Indian roads means negotiating a host of perils, she said the authorities should give appropriate consideration to road safety and sustainable mobility.

"Life is short but don't make its shorter," Yeoh, whose other notable role was in Ang Lee's Oscar-winning martial arts love story "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon", reiterated.

The action heroine, who believes Buddhism is a philosophy, said the UNDP is working closely with ministries across the globe. "We are advocating that if we build roads safe now, you don't have to come back 10 years later to correct the mistakes and after so many lives have been lost. So we have to work very closely with different departments."

After that, educating or generating awareness about road safety is must, she said. "Right now we have all the answers because the developed nations have been working hard on road safety. So we (the developing nations) are lucky; lucky in the sense that they made a lot of mistakes, we can learn from those mistakes."

"We have a lot of big models (on road safety) that can be easily replicated. Some of them don't cost anything much," Yeoh said.

Advocating stricter road safety laws, she said: "Whether it's the pedestrian crossing or implementing laws that can check speedy, crazy and drunk-driving, make compulsory the use of safety belts or restricting speed limits round schools, so many things can be implemented without much cost."

The survivor of the deadly earthquake that struck Nepal while she was visiting the country in April 2015, she recalled being so scared after the disaster that she left the country with a sense of helplessness.

"We were so lucky that we were unhurt and able to go back home. I must say at that time I didn't feel that I could do anything for them. I felt as helpless as the other victims."

"I was scared with the earth rattling. But when I left the place, I felt guilty. I thought I must go back. So a month after the disaster, I reached there again as the brand ambassador of the 'Live to Love' foundation of His Holiness Gyalwang Drukpa (the spiritual head of the 1,000-year-old Drukpa Order based in India)."

"Three months back, I was there again as the UNDP Goodwill Ambassador. The UN is working on various projects, including restoring water supply in villages," Yeoh said.

The temblor in Nepal killed over 8,000 people, injuring thousands and causing widespread destruction.

(Vishal Gulati first met Michelle Yeoh when she visited quake-hit villages on the outskirts of Kathmandu in Nepal in May last year. He was in Leh at the invitation of the Gyalwang Drupka. He can be contacted at vishal.g@ians.in)