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LESSONS:

Lao People’s Democratic Republic: Rural Access Roads Project

sector: Transport | country: Lao, People’s Democratic Republic

1. A balance between forest conservation and conversion of forests into farmlands necessitates land use planning and appropriate land use controls. While acknowledging the need to increase food production, the continued conversion of secondary forests to farmlands has become a major issue linked with the improvement of roads. The need to conserve natural resources remains high but is now competing with the need for broad-based food security. This requires robust land use control laws that need to be enforced appropriately. Project appraisals should include land use planning to reduce the depletion of forests. [Main text, paras. 81,92]

2. In the future, ADB should focus on a particular province or area to achieve implementation synergies, as well as to maximize project impact. The Rural Access Roads Project was characterized by a geographical spread of its subprojects in four different parts of the country. This created several implementation issues and diluted the impact of the project. [Main text, paras. 45,93]

3. Addressing opium cultivation in Lao PDR requires interventions that would complement road improvement. Although the Rural Access Roads Project was effective in reducing opium cultivation in the project impact area, there has been a rise in opium cultivation in other parts of Houaphan. While this is admittedly outside the control of the project, it implies that there is a need to put in place economic structures that create alternative livelihoods for the people in this province. In other words, improving roads alone is insufficient to create new economic activities. The government and other development partners need to address this issue in a more comprehensive manner. [Main text, paras.48,72,94]

4. The improvements in road designs needs to address safety issues linked to steep terrain in Lao PDR. Construction of roads remains a challenging task owing to steep slopes and landslides. The use of slope stabilization techniques for reducing landslides need to be mainstreamed. Moreover, at the appraisal stage, the preliminary road designs need to incorporate slope reduction measures to ensure road safety. It is noted that there needs to be an appropriate balance of economic viability of such measures. ADB and the Ministry of Public Works and Transport need to work together to identify low cost structures. [Main text, paras. 21,95; Executive Summary]

5. In ensuring that differential interventions are able to address inequality among ethnic communities, the appraisal team need to ensure proper assessment of social groupings and collection of baseline data at appraisal as well as use external monitors for social safeguards implementation. Roads may increase inequality between ethnic groups since benefits do not accrue equally to all groups. In the case of the project, all the ethnic communities were grouped into one category which negated addressing inequality among the communities. The project also lacked good baseline data which could have contributed to a sound project design. [Main text, paras. 44,76,97]

6. External agencies can be useful in environmental monitoring especially if concerned government agency lacks the capacity to ensure proper implementation of environmental safeguards. Given the lack of capacity within the Ministry of Public Works and Transport to monitor the implementation of safeguard measures in road rehabilitation affecting conservation areas, the International Union for Conservation of Nature has been an effective third party monitor. [Main text, paras. 79,98]

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