MANILA, PHILIPPINES - ADB will assist the Government of the People's Republic of China in preparing a major urban transport improvement project that covers 5 cities in one of the poorest regions of the country.

A $700,000 grant from ADB will be part of the $900,000 needed to draw up the Xinjiang Urban Transport and Environmental Improvement Project. ADB's assistance is expected to start in December 2007 and last for six months.

"The project will enhance public infrastructure, increase environmental protection and raise the standard of living by improving local road networks and traffic management in five Xinjiang regional cities situated along a major transport corridor," said Amy Leung, principal urban development specialist of ADB's East Asia Department.

The Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region is located in the northwest of the country and is the country's largest region with an area of 1.66 million square kilometers and a relatively small population of 20 million. Xinjiang is the country's gateway to the neighboring Central Asian republics.

As a major transport corridor of the historic Silk Road, Xinjiang has a wealthy history and ethnic culture that has promoted tourism. The region is also rich in natural resources, including oil, metals and minerals. However, today Xinjiang is one of the poorest parts of the country. Last year, about 13.4% of Xinjiang's population lived on incomes below the official poverty line as against the 3.4% national poverty incidence.

"To maximize the development potential of Xinjiang and to raise the living standards of the people, the government has accorded high priority to support the sustainable economic development of the region, particularly border cities and cities along major transport corridors," said Ms. Leung.

The government has also requested ADB to provide a $100 million loan for the actual transport and environmental improvement project. The project is in line with the ADB's country strategy for the People's Republic of China, said Ms. Leung. The total length of roads planned for construction under the project is about 168 kilometers of varying widths and capacities. Around eight bridge structures totaling 340 meters in length are also being planned for development under the project.

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