Japan, ADB preparing feasibility study for road project in Bhutan

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Singapore, Oct 21 (UNI) Japan and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) are helping prepare a feasibility study for a road project in Bhutan that will ensure more balanced and sustainable economic expansion and poverty reduction in the less developed southern part of the country.

The Japan Special Fund, through ADB, will provide a 6,50,000 dollars grant for the feasibility study, while Bhutan will extend 1,65,000 dollars to complete funding requirement.

The feasibility study will focus on a national highway in the southern corridor, as well as feeder roads in the middle of the corridor.

The study will be the basis of a road project design for possible loan financing, said the Manila-based ADB today.

''Most of the poor, especially in rural areas, feel that the Government should prioritise road infrastructure and bridges to improve their living conditions,'' said Arto Ahonen, Transport Specialist of ADB's South Asia Department.

A large segment of the rural population of Bhutan has limited access to markets and modern services because of harsh geography and limited reach of the domestic transport system.

There are no domestic flights, railways, and rivers fit for water transport.

The country depends on a single East-West national highway running through the middle of the country. The absence of a similar highway in the south has constrained travel in that part of Bhutan.

Along Bhutan's southern corridor, the western part has emerged as an economic growth center. Improving the transport system in this area will increase the potential economic benefits.

Connecting the less-developed eastern part of the southern corridor to the country's road network will also promote economic growth and reduce poverty, while improving the road connection to India and Bangladesh will enhance subregional economic cooperation.

A land-locked country, road access plays a vital part in Bhutan's trade and commerce. India is Bhutan's biggest trading partner, accounting for around 90 per cent of the country's imports and 70 per cent of its exports.

At present, only the north-south road corridor located in western Bhutan connects the two countries.

Bhutan's exports to Bangladesh also travel through India.

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