ADB Grant to Help Improve Well-Being of Bhutan's Road Workers

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - ADB has approved a US$500,000 grant from its Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction (JFPR), financed by the Government of Japan, to improve the well-being of road workers in Bhutan.

The grant will help increase awareness on health issues and improve first-aid services for the Government's more than 4,000 road workers. It will also improve shelter, water and sanitation, electricity, and access to school and training opportunities.

"The socioeconomic well-being of Bhutan is related to an effective and sustainable road transport network, as no other modes of transport are available to move people and goods," says Hiroaki Yamaguchi, an ADB Transport Specialist. "The road workers who maintain the country's road network, however, are among the most vulnerable groups in the country."

Most road workers have insufficient land or other income-generating sources. Learning opportunities, jobs, and health and hygiene awareness are limited, particularly among women. The lack of social infrastructure such as education and health, the lack of electricity, and the lack of access to markets are critical concerns.

Although the Government provides dwellings for the road workers, 64% of the dwellings do not have any sanitation and only 28% have clean water. Most road workers live in temporary shelters that do not provide proper protection during the monsoon and winter. Their children also have difficulties going to school because of the distance of their shelters, especially during monsoon and winter seasons.

The grant will train 60 selected road workers on basic health and first aid to become health workers, provide essential equipment for basic health services, and fund an awareness campaign covering topics ranging from basic hygiene to sexually transmitted diseases targeting all road workers.

It will also renovate and improve 50 workers' dwellings, provide 30 solar power units to 60 dwellings at high-altitude locations, and provide water and sanitation for 50 dwellings. Two double-story school dormitories will be constructed to increase the access of the road workers' children to schools.

ADB has been providing support to the road sector in Bhutan since 1983. The grant will complement an ongoing project to resurface the east-west highway.

The Government and communities will contribute $152,000 toward the project's total cost of $652,000. The Department of Roads is the executing agency for the project, which will be carried out over three years.

The JFPR was set up in 2000 with an initial contribution of Y10 billion (about $90 million). The Fund now stands at more than $344 million.