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ADB Approves Emergency Assistance Project in Tsunami Affected Solomon Islands

News Release | 27 June 2007

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - The Asian Development Bank (ADB) today approved a US$4.95 million grant from its Asian Development Fund (ADF) to help finance a Project which will rehabilitate essential infrastructure that was damaged by the earthquake and tsunami which devastated parts of the western Solomon Islands.

On 2 April 2007 a massive undersea earthquake triggered a tsunami that devastated parts of Western and Choiseul provinces. Fifty two people were killed, and islands in both provinces suffered considerable damage to housing, infrastructure, schools and clinics. Twenty thousand people - out of a total population of 90,000- have been affected by the disaster. Six thousand houses were destroyed or completely damaged, and an estimated 5000 people have been displaced.

"The goal of the Emergency Assistance Project is to restore the economic and social activities in affected areas to pre-disaster levels through the rehabilitation of essential infrastructure. Restoring roads, wharves, and bridges, will facilitate recovery, rural development, poverty reduction, and economic growth," says Philip Erquiaga, Director General of ADB's Pacific Department. "The affected areas generate a large share of Solomon Islands' national output through forestry, fisheries, and agriculture. Choiseul and Western provinces attract much of Solomon Islands' tourism."

Following a direct request from the Solomon Islands Government, ADB responded to the tsunami emergency by dispatching staff to support infrastructure assessments, communications, programming, and donor coordination.

Staff visited the affected areas, supported the Ministry of Infrastructure Development in carrying out initial infrastructure damage and needs assessment, and provided strategic advice to the Ministry of Development Planning and Aid Coordination in defining and establishing the process toward recovery and rehabilitation. The team engaged with the Government to determine the role ADB could play in the recovery and rehabilitation phases.

The Government requested ADB, on the basis of a Cabinet decision, to coordinate the overall reconstruction and rehabilitation process. ADB disaster risk management specialists were fielded to Solomon Islands to assist the Government in planning towards recovery. In addition, ADB has agreed to assist the Government in the reconstruction of infrastructure damage-in line with ongoing ADB infrastructure projects in Solomon Islands.

The cofinanced Emergency Assistance Project is expected to require an investment of US$9.75 million. Along with ADB's ADF grant of US$4.95 million, the Solomon Islands Government will provide US$0.80 million in counterpart contributions. The European Commission (EC) will provide grant cofinancing of US$4.00 million equivalent, to be administered by ADB, for road rehabilitation component. ADB and the Solomon Islands Government will finance the remaining components and related costs.

The Project will be implemented over two years 2007-2009. Specifically it will re-build and rehabilitate essential infrastructure that was damaged or destroyed by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami, including about 35 kilometers of rural and town roads, 19 bridges, five wharves and jetties, and facilitate the repair of the Gizo town water supply and sanitation system.

"The disaster left thousands of people homeless without access to safe water, markets, schools, and basic social services," says Robert Guild, ADB Transport Specialist and Team Leader of the Emergency Assistance Project. "People's livelihoods were destroyed and villages were cut off when roads connecting communities were ripped apart, bridges and wharves washed away, and hospitals were flooded. Recovery and rehabilitation will depend on restoring access to affected areas via infrastructure reconstruction."

The earthquake and tsunami disaster also revealed the importance of reducing vulnerability to natural hazards and climate change. The Emergency Assistance Project will address these issues through improved planning and disaster recovery coordination, and build capacity to design and implement more robust engineering solutions.