Central Asia Cross-border Trade and Transport

Feature | 14 May 2013

Rehabilitated roads in landlocked Tajikistan boost trade at home and with other Central Asian nations and the People's Republic of China (PRC).

By the numbers

 
10
international freight trucks on the project road per day in 2006.
76
international freight trucks on the project road per day in December 2012
177
international freight trucks on the project road per day by 2015

Source: Reports and Recommendations of the President 2007.


Rasht Center, Rasht District - The 180-kilometer (km) road that runs from Rasht Center to Dushanbe, Tajikistan's capital, is part of a greater road corridor that connects Dushanbe with the Kyrgyz Republic border and beyond, providing vital trade links for this landlocked nation.

It is also providing local opportunities for entrepreneurs in the Rasht Valley, which borders the Kyrgyz Republic. One of them is 53-year-old taxi driver Saidmukhsin Saadiev, who drives passengers from Rasht Center to the capital every day.

"It takes about 3 hours now to reach Dushanbe," he says. "I can easily make a round trip in a day ... You can't imagine how difficult it was to travel before. People used to spend over 10 hours to get to the capital."

"You can't imagine how difficult it was to travel before. People used to spend over 10 hours to get to the capital."

- Saidmukhsin Saadiev, 53, taxi driver

People used to spend even longer - 13 hours as recently as 2007 - traveling from the capital to the border with the Kyrgyz Republic - a journey that had been reduced to 8 hours by 2012, partly clearing the path to increased international trade.

Saadiev describes the old road as "bumpy and unpaved," making a circle with his hands to show how big the potholes were. "Cars constantly broke down, and drivers and passengers wasted lots of time and money."

Entrepreneurial obstacles of that kind are now simply memories.

Boosting Travel, Trade

ADB approved its first assistance to repair the 340-km Dushanbe-Kyrgyz border road in late 2003, and since then it has provided a total of over $118 million in concessional loans and grants in Tajikistan to improve the road.

As of early 2013, the work on the road was almost completed, with the exception of an approximately 13-km section.

By December 2012, domestic traffic on the road had increased to an annualized daily average of 2,378 vehicles, from 250 in 2006.

Muhtor Negmatov, director of the project team in the Ministry of Transport, admits that road safety is still an issue, largely due to the fact that better road conditions mean more people use the road and drive faster, coupled with a low awareness of traffic safety among rural communities. But he says the overall situation has improved vastly.

"The number of accidents on the road decreased almost eight-fold since 2006," he says.

According to Farrukh Nuriddinov, ADB project officer, road safety continues to be addressed through cooperation with the government.

Increased traffic volume, while critical for economic development and trade, also necessitates investments in road maintenance, adds Nuriddinov.

"Regular road maintenance and controlling overloaded vehicles are key to maximize the sustainability of the project," he says. "ADB supports the government in piloting a performance-based road maintenance scheme and installing vehicle weighing systems."

Connecting Villages, Countries

The project has rehabilitated not only the road to the capital but also rural roads in the Rasht and Nurobod Districts, making it easier for farmers to access markets and other social services. Production of vegetables, fruits, and livestock has increased, and some villagers have reported a 30% increase in their income. They attribute their improved earnings partly to the better road conditions.

"I no longer have to repair the chassis after every trip. I spend less on fuel, and can make trips more often."

- Esanali Urumbaev, 49, truck owner

As one of Central Asia's most significant trade routes - and the most direct link from the PRC to Central and South Asia - the Dushanbe - Kyrgyz border road is boosting trade and cooperation in the region. The road falls under Corridor 3 of the six priority corridors identified under the Transport and Trade Facilitation Strategy of the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation Program (CAREC).

Traffic surveys indicate an increase of international freight traffic to 76 trucks per day in December 2012 from about 10 trucks per day in 2006. That is expected to rise to 177 trucks per day by 2015.

"The improved road is a major contribution to the economic development of the region by enhancing regional cooperation and improving competitiveness of the countries," said C.C. Yu. ADB country director for Tajikistan. "ADB is currently reviewing the CAREC Transport and Trade Facilitation Strategy and will continue to invest in improving the regional connectivity."

The numbers may still be small for the moment, but the impact for those involved is significant.

"For the past several months, I've traveled on this road every week, bringing onions and coal from Osh to Tajikistan," says Esanali Urumbaev, 49, a truck-owner from Alay District, Kyrgyz Republic.

"I no longer have to repair the chassis after every trip. I spend less on fuel, and can make trips more often," he says, adding he is grateful for the changed conditions on the road.

"The improved road is helping my life and my business," says Esanali.