The Asian Development Bank (ADB) this week announced a $118 million aid package for Cambodia to pave more than 700 km of road around the country to help spur the economy and make it easier for rural communities to access services.
A $54 million loan from the ADB will cover the bulk of the roadwork and is scheduled to start next year and last until 2020.
“Cambodia’s rural economy is increasingly dependent on the road network for income opportunities and access to services,” ADB senior transport specialist Shihiru Date said in a statement released Monday. “This project to upgrade 729 km of rural roads will provide safe, climate-resistant and cost effective roads in provinces that are home to a large portion of Cambodia’s poor.”
The project aims to upgrade existing, mostly gravel roads in nine provinces: Banteay Meanchey, Battambang, Kompong Cham, Kompong Chhnang, Kompong Speu, Kompong Thom, Pursat, Siem Reap and Takeo. Most of the work will happen on routes branching off national roads ringing the Tonle Sap lake.
Besides the ADB’s share of the bill, the cost will be covered with a combination of loans and grants from South Korea, Australia, the Nordic Development Fund and the Cambodian government. Some of the money will also go toward road safety programs, to help some communities cope with climate change, even to AIDS and human trafficking awareness programs.
Chan Darong, director general of technical affairs at the Ministry of Rural Development, which is working with the ADB on the project, said construction was scheduled to start in August of next year.
“The new roads will be able to help people transport their products faster and our people will save money when they get smooth roads,” Mr. Darong said.
The ADB’s project website says the work poses “minimal” risk that families will have to be resettled to make way for the project and promises compensation at the market rate for families who might lose land where roads need to be widened. Though some roads will be widened, Mr. Darong said no one would have to move.
The ADB is facing heavy criticism for failing to take adequate care of hundreds of families displaced by a $143 million project it funded to rehabilitate Cambodia’s old railway system.