The CAREC Corridor 1 (Bishkek-Torugart Road) Project 3 (the project) will help the government improve the 60-km section from At Beit to Torugart at the People's Republic of China (PRC) border. Together with the ongoing improvement works in the other sections, it will enable all weather road travel between Bishkek and Kashi. Aside from the economic benefits of higher speeds and reliability, the better road geometry and protective structures resulting from the improvement will reduce the accidental toxic spill risk and material run-off from vehicles. These reductions will benefit the ecosystem of Chatyr Kul lake--a wetland of international significance and protected under the Ramsar convention.
The project will also strengthen infrastructure management skills of government staff engaged in the road sector. This is an essential and natural complement to the capital investment. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) provided technical assistance for institutional strengthening and capacity building totaling nearly $6 million between 1996 and 2010. The World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development have more assistance programmed for 2011. These are short and one-off interventions. The project, in contract, supports a long-term, results oriented program of learning and development for government staff. It will result in better informed staff, equipped to champion strategies for reducing life cycle costs and improving user cost recovery.
|Project Rationale and Linkage to Country/Regional Strategy
The condition of the Kyrgyz Republic's road network and its management have improved substantially between 2005 and 2010. However, several dilapidated network links and poor infrastructure management skills continue to hamper regional trade and economic growth. The project will help the government make some of these much improvements in accordance with ADB's Strategy 2020. Aside from being landlocked, 80 percent of the Kyrgyz Republic's land is covered by the Tian Shan mountain range. Trade and travel are almost entirely dependent on road transport. More than 90% of the passenger trips and about 60% of the freight in 2009 moved by road. This has been made partly possible by donor assistance since 1996 to upgrade about 2,000 km of strategic roads. More roads are waiting to be improved. The 539-km Bishkek-Torugart road is one of them. Its surface, most bridges, and safety devices are either inadequate or functionally obsolete. Traffic volumes in several sections exceed the capacities causing heavy delays during the summer months, and movement in some sections are frequently interrupted due to landslides, snow drifts, water logging, and flooding. Bishkek-Torugart road plays several important functions. It is part of the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) Corridor 1(c), which extends from Troitsk in the Russian Federation to Kashi in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of the PRC; is the shortest thoroughfare from Bishkek to Kashi; and the only north-south trunk road in Central Kyrgyz Republic, connecting the Naryn oblast (province), the poorest of the Kyrgyz Republic's seven oblasts, and the City of Naryn to the rest of the country. It is also the only road that provides direct access at present to Issyk Kul lake region, one of Central Asia's best known tourist destinations with a huge potential to grow. However, the costly, slow, unreliable, and unsafe travel due to the poor road condition has hampered the development of the entire corridor, particularly the province (oblast) of Naryn. Imports from the PRC continue to grow, but exports are limited to a few products because only few local communities are able to transport their produce to the consolidation centers such as Naryn and At Bashi. Although the government prepared the Road Sector Development Strategy for 2007-2010, in which Bishkek-Torugart road improvement features prominently as an action item, it lacked resources for implementing the strategy. As the country's first development partner and largest multilateral lender to the road subsector, ADB was first to offer to meet part of the resource need. In 2008 and 2009, it financed the improvement of 114 km (km 365-km 479) of this road. It is also helping the government through CAREC to strengthen trade ties with its neighbors. The PRC government provided $200 million in 2010 to improve 223 km (from km 9 to km 272). Works under these projects are progressing mostly on schedule, and are expected to be complete by the end of 2014. The government is discussing with the Arab Coordination Group on a financing package of $80 million for improving 93 km (km 272 to km 365). If unimproved, the 60-km section from km 479 to km 539 at the Kyrgyz-PRC border will be the only bottleneck in the corridor.
Infrastructure preservation is another task that the government has yet to accomplish efficiently. Between 1996 and 2010, total investment in road improvement exceeded $1 billion--ADB provided about $300 million of this. Investment in preservation was approximately $28 million in 2009, six times more than in 2005. But, it was only half of what was needed to keep the 19,000-km network under the Ministry of Transport and Communications' (MOTC) jurisdiction in good shape. Cost recovery from road users covers a fraction of the needs at present, and the government is facing ever rising construction and maintenance costs. Therefore, more attention must be paid to preservation. For this, the government not only needs tools--legislation, policies, techniques, and procedures--but also skilled staff to use the tool, and champion change.