The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved an $82 million loan to improve approximately 48km of national and provincial roads in Prey Veng and Kandal provinces to boost economic development along the Greater Mekong Subregion’s (GMS) southern economic corridor.

The new assistance is the second phase of the road network improvement series of projects, which aim to strengthen Cambodia’s links with Vietnam and support the development of cross-border facilities in both nations’ border provinces.

In a press release, ADB said the new upgrade will use disaster and climate-resilient designs and will help the Ministry of Public Works and Transport better manage roads by reducing vehicle overloading, which is a practice that often damages roads and leads to premature repairs.

ADB transport specialist Mohammad Nazrul Islam said road transport is the primary means of moving goods and people in Cambodia and between the other Mekong countries. The project will expand access to education, health and other public services among local communities, especially for poor and rural residents.

“It will also better connect them to markets and economic opportunities through a more efficient, safe and climate-resilient road network connecting Cambodia with Vietnam along the Mekong southern economic corridor,” he said.

According to the press release, to address these challenges the government has developed a national plan to build high-quality, sustainable and climate-resilient infrastructure that can accommodate the country’s population and employment growth through 2030. The roads under the project are included in the master plan’s project list.

The first phase of the project – approved by ADB in 2017 – covers 147km of national roads in the provinces of Prey Veng, Siem Reap and Svay Rieng along the same southern economic corridor.

The press release stated that under the second phase, the upgrades to national roads will showcase cost-effective, sustainable and environmentally friendly bioengineering techniques, including those for protecting embankments and slopes.

The upgrade to the provincial roads will pilot an environmentally friendly liquid soil catalyst in their construction to help expand the use of locally available materials.

The press release said the project also aimed to help the public works ministry improve road asset management and develop a sustainable road maintenance regime using performance-based road maintenance contracts. It will also raise awareness of road safety and health in project communities.

The road project follows ADB’s country partnership strategy for Cambodia, which aims to help the Kingdom improve competitiveness and diversify the economy. The project also builds on ADB’s portfolio of road and railway projects in the country.

ADB said Cambodia’s economy grew 7.8 per cent per year on average from 1998-2019, but suffered a 3.1 per cent contraction in 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

ADB concluded their analysis by noting that Cambodia’s transport sector also faces challenges, including insufficient infrastructure investment and overall sustainability given that most of the country’s rural and provincial roads are unpaved while its national roads have limited capacity with frequent congestion and a high rate of road accidents.