T HE possibility of building a multi-million dollar bridge over the Mekong River in Cambodia's eastern provinces is to be investigated.
The Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the government on December 7 to launch a feasibility study and assess locations for the bridge.
The survey, expected to take 16 months, will begin in March. Three possible sites - Neak Loeng, 53km southeast of Phnom Penh; Prek Tamak, 22km north of Phnom Penh on Route 6A; and the Kampong Cham provincial capital - have been selected.
Ing Kieth, Minister of Public Works and Transport, said the bridge would be of great benefit in developing Cambodia's eastern provinces, as well as becoming part of the regional road network linking Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City.
"It will not be of any benefit if the bridge just serves as a road-link across the river," he said. "But in fact, its presence can be a foundation for us to expand our plans to develop the eastern part of the country.
"We say that where the road goes, there will go development."
Though it was too early to discuss details of the construction of the bridge, the minister said it was likely to cost more than $100 million if approved.
Hundreds of jobs would be available for Cambodians, but he stressed that skilled workers would be most important.
Shigenobu Kato, Charge d'Affairs of the Embassy of Japan, said the JICA study would include the legal, social, economic, environmental aspects of such a bridge.
"This kind of project should be well organized and studied. You can not do it overnight. This 16 months is a very short time," he said.
"I think if this feasibility study is accomplished, certainly everyone will think about how to build the bridge. That kind of bridge will make a bridge between the rich and farmers in Cambodia," he added.