- The road corridor is strengthening Mongolia’s transport links with the PRC, the Russian Federation, and other countries in the region.
- With the new road, students at Khovd University can go home, see their families, and come back to school in the same day.
- Improved roads in the western Mongolian province of Khovd resulted to zero maternal mortality.
At the provincial university in the western Mongolian province of Khovd, a new road is having a positive impact on families. “The road conditions used to be quite rough, especially over the mountain passes,” says Urangoo, a biology major student. “It used to take overnight travel to get here. My home used to seem so far away. Now, with the new road, I can go home, see my family, and come back to school in the same day.”
Urangoo and her fellow students benefit from a road that was improved as part of the first phase of the ADB-supported Western Regional Road Corridor Development Project, which is building a transport corridor that will link the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to the Russian Federation via western Mongolia.
The corridor will span nearly 750 kilometers (km) and become part of the Asian Highway Network. The first phase of the project constructed a road from Yarant, a border crossing point along Mongolia’s southwestern border with the PRC, to Khovd city, the provincial capital. It also created road maintenance units, improved road safety, and provided skills training to transport officials.
From Isolated to International
The road corridor is strengthening Mongolia’s transport links with the PRC, the Russian Federation, and other countries in the region. It is also promoting sustainable economic growth and social development in the areas surrounding the road.
According to Governor Galsandondog Damdin, his province of Khovd is already feeling the benefits of the corridor. Located on the western edge of Mongolia, the province was once considered remote and isolated because it was far from the country’s capital city. The province’s livestock industry needs good roads to expand.
“We are seeing trade between the PRC and the Russian Federation improving,” he says, noting that his province now sits right along a principal overland trade route between the two giant economies.
Improved Road, Improved Lives
Along the road in western Mongolia, people have felt the immediate benefits of improved transport. Yagaantsetseg, who runs a small store beside the road to support her five children, was once a livestock herder. The life was difficult and kept her children far from local schools. Her income was also low and she struggled to meet her expenses. She opened her small roadside store before the road was improved, but that was challenging as well.
“We felt quite lucky. Besides the benefit of lower prices of merchandise, we can now travel in a safer and faster way.”
“Before the road was rehabilitated, we endured 14-hour trips to the provincial center, which is over 300 km from here. We used to have some trade along the border with the PRC. To go to the border and back required 2 to 3 days.” When the newly improved road opened, traffic increased and so did business for her shop. She was also able to bring down her operating costs, which allowed her to increase her income to support her family.
Tulga, a minivan driver along the road, has also benefited from lower operating costs. A shuttle service operator for the last 7 years, Tulga remembers having to use heavy-duty, expensive-to-maintain Russian vehicles to endure the poor road conditions. It would also take 12 hours to travel from one district capital to the next, forcing him to sleep overnight—an additional expense—before taking the trip back.
“Now, we can go there and back within the same day,” he says. “Our cars also do not suffer as much damage now. One of the key problems was dealing with flat tires and damaged shock absorbers. These days, that’s no longer a problem. Now, we only need to clean and polish our cars.”
Amarjargal Baasankhuu, who has been a doctor in the province for more than 25 years, says the new roads in the area have improved the lives of many patients. “When I was head of the district hospital, there were difficulties in transporting and receiving emergency cases because of bad road conditions,” she says. “It was difficult for the patients being transported over those roads and it took quite a long time for doctors to reach them.”
With the improved roads, doctors in the province can see more patients over a wider geographic area, which is crucial in the vast, sparsely populated rural areas of Mongolia. Batsukh Zodov, a women’s health physician in the province of Khovd, has seen similar results. He remembers a time when patients struggled for hours traveling over rough roads to obtain vital medical services.
“With the improved roads, doctors in the province can see more patients over a wider geographic area, which is crucial in the vast, sparsely populated rural areas of Mongolia.”
He and other doctors endured the same hardship. In some cases, it would take him as long as 24 hours to reach a patient in a nearby district. “When the road was bad, it was quite difficult to reach patients in remote areas,” he says, noting that one year there were 16 maternal deaths in his district alone. “It took a lot of time to reach patients.”
Since the road has been improved, days of travel have turned into hours, and in some cases hours have become minutes. The improved roads have also given doctors in the province more options, including bringing medical equipment to patients and allowing for more follow-up visits. “The changes are vivid, like night and day,” he says. “We have zero maternal mortality today.”
WESTERN REGIONAL ROAD CORRIDOR DEVELOPMENT PROJECT PHASE I
Learn more about ADB’s work in Mongolia.
This article was originally published in Together We Deliver, a publication highlighting successful ADB projects across Asia and the Pacific that demonstrated development impacts, best practice, and innovation.