|Project Rationale and Linkage to Country/Regional Strategy
Roads are the principal mode of transportation in Cambodia. The road network of approximately 39,400 km includes: (i) national roads (primary national highways) with a total
length of about 4,800 km; (ii) provincial roads (secondary national highways) with a total length of about 6,600 km; and (iii) about 28,000 km of rural roads. Management of national and provincial roads is the responsibility of the Ministry of Public Works and Transport (MPWT), whereas management of rural roads is the responsibility of MRD.
The country's road network had greatly deteriorated by the early 1990s, as a result of the civil war. However, since 1992, with assistance from ADB and other multilateral and bilateral development partners, the government has focused on rehabilitating the core national infrastructure that is required for the economy to develop in a sustainable manner. Development efforts have increased the length of the paved national road network to about 2,700 km, which is slightly less than 25% of the total national and provincial road network.
The remote rural economy is becoming increasingly dependent on the improved national road network, yet the rural road network continues to deteriorate because of the steady growth in traffic, combined with a lack of maintenance financing, poor road maintenance standards, inadequate institutional capacity in road maintenance and management, lack of private contractor capacity, and design and construction deficiencies. The project will address these issues and provide reliable all-year road access from provincial towns and agricultural rural areas to markets, employment centers, and social services in seven provinces, serving about 560,000 beneficiaries. These provinces are Battambang, Kampong Cham, Kampong Chhnang, Kampong Speu, Kampong Thom, Pursat, and Siem Reap, most of which are located around Tonle Sap Basin where a large proportion of Cambodia's rural poor live. Some of the current gravel roads, which are 5-6 meters (m) in width, are susceptible to flooding in the rainy season. Motorcycles constitute nearly 80% of the traffic on these roads, which have low to moderate levels of traffic; the average daily traffic volume ranges from 200 to 2,000 passenger car units, depending on the road section. The current annual growth rate of traffic varies between 3.6% and 6% based on the type of vehicle. These growth rates are forecast to increase by 7.2%-12% per annum, thus requiring a more sustainable paved rural road network to accommodate future traffic.
As a consequence of relatively rapid economic development, overloading of cargo vehicles has become a severe cause of road damage in Cambodia in the past 5 years. This is
also an issue on rural roads as a result of overloaded trucks that haul agricultural products and carry quarry materials for construction. While ADB is currently supporting axle load control programs for the national road network, the project aims to provide a wider coverage of control to curtail overloading in certain locations within the project provinces.
Cambodia has one of the highest incidences of road accidents in the world with 18 fatalities per 10,000 vehicles in 2007. This is a 50% increase from 2000 and nearly three times
higher than that in neighboring Thailand. Thus, deteriorating road safety is a major sector concern, especially with the increasing growth of traffic in rural areas. Increased traffic speeds resulting from improved paved road surfaces can also impose tremendous safety risks to rural communities. In line with the national umbrella programs for road safety and ADB's ongoing support through MPWT, the project will assist the MRD in designing and managing a rural road safety program for the project provinces. Additionally, given the natural disasters that Cambodia has faced in recent years, particularly the frequent flooding during the wet season, the need to address climate change considerations is essential. The project therefore includes a number of innovative climate change adaptation activities relating, for example, to road design and planning for emergency preparedness, mitigation, and response.
Supported by past and ongoing ADB projects and TAs, the draft transport policy has been approved by MPWT and is currently being reviewed by Cambodia's Council of Ministers
for final approval. MRD's policy for rural roads is currently being finalized and will supplement this transport policy. The rural roads policy needs to be approved and adopted within the project period to ensure effective implementation of all project outputs. MRD's sub-decree on the right-of-way for rural roads also needs to be formulated, finalized, and approved during the early stages of project implementation. This sub-decree will then be integrated with MPWT's subdecree for national and provincial roads to form the road right-of-way law for Cambodia. The project includes assurances for timely approvals of both the rural roads policy and the subdecree on the right-of-way for rural roads. The project is therefore in line with the draft transport policy of Cambodia; this transport policy is one recommendation of ADB's sector assistance program evaluation2 for Cambodia's transport sector.
ADB's country operations business plan (COBP) 2009-2012 for Cambodia aims to foster pro-poor and socially inclusive growth by enhancing environmentally sustainable agriculture and rural development. In light of the indirect impacts of the global economic crisis, the COBP seeks to do this by diversifying the sources of rural growth and bolstering poverty reduction efforts. The geographic focus of rural livelihood efforts will continue to be the Tonle Sap Basin, which has a large proportion of Cambodia's rural poor. The COBP includes four road sector projects in the program, all of which are in line with another recommendation of the sector assistance program evaluation, which requires ADB to shift its focus to the rehabilitation of provincial and rural roads.
(i) The Greater Mekong Subregion Cambodia Northwest Provincial Road Improvement Project will improve connectivity internally within the region and externally around the border areas with Thailand.
(ii) Two rural roads improvement projects,5 programmed for 2010 and 2012, will complement the above project. These two projects will rehabilitate and maintain connecting rural roads to improve the rural poor's access to markets and social services. The phased approach for the two projects is intended to resolve the current issues in the rural roads subsector (see paras. 5 and 6) in a systematic way.
(iii) The Provincial Roads Asset Management Project is programmed for 2011 to support MPWT in the rehabilitation of provincial roads.
The government's poverty reduction strategy for 2009-2013 (the Rectangular Strategy for Growth, Employment, Equity and Efficiency, Phase II) emphasizes generating economic
growth through the private sector, with rehabilitation and development of the country's physical infrastructure as a necessary precondition.6 The project supports this strategy, particularly as it enhances connectivity, economic exchange, and access to social services in remote areas of Cambodia. Thus, it is included in the COBP 2009-2012 as a core project in the transport sector.