An ADB-supported project has upgraded a key transport corridor in landlocked Tajikistan, giving businesses and residents better access to services and distant markets.

The success of ADB’s project to upgrade the road between Tajikistan’s capital of Dushanbe and its border with the Kyrgyz Republic can be quantified by kilometers upgraded, traffic flows increased, and financial and economic rates of return. But for 45-year-old Rupiya Karimova, the benefits transcend mere metrics. The project has changed her life.

“Not only does the new road cut travel time, it makes it easier for my family to visit the district hospital in Rasht Center when they need to.”

Rupiya Karimova, a resident of Rasht Center

Several years ago, Rupiya was jobless and struggling to support herself and her three children. When she traveled from her home in Rasht Center to the capital Dushanbe for supplies or health care, it could take her 10 hours one way on a dusty, bumpy track.

Then, 2 years ago, with the upgraded road promising easier access to customers and supplies, Rupiya decided to open a fabric store in Rasht Center’s market. The venture was a success. She travels to Dushanbe in a taxi every 2 weeks to buy goods for her store and is able to make the round trip in a day. “Not only does the new road cut travel time, it makes it easier for my family to visit the district hospital in Rasht Center when they need to,” says Rupiya.

Road rehabilitation and maintenance

Rupiya is one of a growing number of individuals and entrepreneurs in Tajikistan who find traveling faster, safer, and easier thanks to the ADB-supported Dushanbe-Kyrgyz Border Road Rehabilitation Project (Phase II). Two sections of the border road totaling 89 kilometers in length and another 60 kilometers of rural roads were upgraded during 2005-2013 at a cost of $60 million, $51.7 million of which was financed by ADB. Work included strengthening road foundations, resurfacing, improving drainage systems and bridges, and shoring up retaining walls.

The project was part of a larger government initiative to improve road transport in landlocked Tajikistan. ADB has been involved from the start. It first approved assistance for repairs to the Dushanbe-Kyrgyz border road in late 2003, and since then has provided more than $118 million in loans and grants to improve it.

The private sector plays an important role in ensuring the benefits from the upgraded roads will last. Tajikistan is the first Central Asian country to begin contracting public road maintenance out to private companies. ADB financed the preparatory works related to the company selection process, while the government provided $4 million for performance-based maintenance contracts.

Opening more business opportunities

The project’s road improvements have enabled about 260,000 residents in the Rasht Valley to access distant markets, and given a boost to businesses and agriculture.

It helped increase trade in the region, as well as economic growth in the Rasht Valley and Dushanbe, and created a sustainable regional and national road network, says a 2014 Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) Program report, CAREC in Tajikistan, Building a Global Future. “New businesses are opening as traffic increases on completed sections of the road, and locals are finding jobs in gas stations, cafés, and repair shops.”

Before the upgrade, drivers on the 340-kilometer road between Dushanbe and the Kyrgyz border had to traverse unsealed, rock-strewn surfaces. The journey took 13 hours as recently as 2007. With smoother driving on the upgraded asphalt, average travel time was reduced to 8 hours by 2012. Traffic has increased, nearly tripling to 2,071 in 2013 from 777 vehicles a day in 2005.

The upgrade of rural roads has made it easier for farmers to get to markets, particularly in the Rasht and Nurobod districts. Production of vegetables, fruits, and livestock is up, and some villagers have reported a 30% rise in income.

Despite increased traffic and higher speeds, safety on the road has improved. “The number of accidents decreased by almost 80% since 2006,” says Muhtor Negmatov, a former director of the project team in the Ministry of Transport.

Central Asia economic corridor

The Dushanbe-Kyrgyz border road, part of a trade route that links Tajikistan to Afghanistan and the Kyrgyz Republic and beyond to the People’s Republic of China, the rest of Central Asia, and South Asia, is one of the six priority corridors identified for development under the CAREC transport and trade facilitation strategy adopted in 2013. The strategy aims to establish efficient economic corridors that will benefit the entire region by 2020.

This is critically important to the country’s future, says Tajikistan’s Minister of Transport Hayrullo Asozoda. “The ADB-funded projects help us in rehabilitating major regional highways and rural roads, promoting social and economic development of the country, as well as regional cooperation and trade.”

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.