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FEATURE STORY

Upgrade of Road Network to Improve Connectivity in Timor-Leste

July 23, 2014

Work to rehabilitate a 110 km road corridor will better link the District of Dili and Ainaro, opening new opportunities along the way. 

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The poor condition of roads that connect the north and south of the country is a major challenge for many districts.
  • A project is supporting the government to upgrade the 110km road corridor between Dili to Ainaro.
  • The road project has started and will help open new opportunities for many communities along the way.

July 23, 2014 - The Ainaro district has great economic potential as one of the most diverse agricultural regions in Timor-Leste. The mountain landscapes present stunning panoramic scenery, and the district boasts fertile farming lands for local fruit and vegetables and world class coffee plantations. With a number of cultural heritage sites and Ramelau Mountain - the highest point in the country - there is also potential for tourism.

However, an enormous challenge lies ahead. The road between the capital city Dili to the district of Ainaro, which serves as a critical corridor from the north to the south of the country, is in poor condition resulting in frequent travel delays. In the rainy season, sections of the road are hit by landslides and flooding which causes long delays to travel between districts and impacts on the movement of freight and public transport.

Building a better quality road will increase people’s access to markets, schools and to medical services. More people will be able to travel easily to see the beautiful mountain scenery and to visit other heritage sites in the area.

Manuel Soares is the head of a local NGO based in Maubisse, a mountain town 80 kilometers from Dili. He thinks people in the agriculturally rich districts of Aileu, Ainaro and Manufahi should be able to supply local fruit and vegetables to the market in the capital, minimizing imports of fresh food, and helping Timorese farmers make a living.

“We need to have a wider, good quality road, that can resist flooding and landslides, to allow more farmers to get their produce to the market while it is fresh, at an affordable cost. This will help encourage the farmers to produce more,” said Manuel. “Improving the road will also allow people to more easily experience the exciting panoramic views of Ramelau Mountain and will boost tourism to the area.”

Poor road conditions also have a big impact on seriously ill patients due to the long travel time it takes to reach the hospital in Dili.

“It can take 2 to 3 hours to travel to the hospital in Dili,” says Dr. Gabriela Pereira, from the referral clinic in Maubisse. “Sometimes, if women have problems during birth and they have to wait a long time, they might die.”

Open Quotes

It can take 2 to 3 hours to travel to the hospital in Dili. Sometimes, if women have problems during birth and they have to wait a long time, they might die Close Quotes

Gabriela Pereira
Clinic Doctor at Maubisse

Work for road upgrade started

Last year, the World Bank approved a credit and loan for $40 million to rehabilitate the entire 110km road corridor spanning the districts of Dili, Aileu and Ainaro. The road project will stabilize slope protection, improve drainage, repair pavements, and develop an emergency maintenance and response system to help the government tackle the effects of extreme weather on roads.

The first contracts for the road rehabilitation have been awarded to two companies through a competitive international bidding process, and the project has recently been presented to the community

“Building a good quality road will reduce the number of traffic accidents, decrease travel times and the overall costs of maintenance,” said Franz Drees-Gross, World Bank Country Director for Papua New Guinea, Timor-Leste, and the Pacific Islands. “It will ensure the road is passable throughout the year and allow people to benefit from improved access to markets, and better services.”

Managing the risks of erosion and improving drainage in the mountainous terrain remains a challenge. To make sure that the roads can withstand rain and flooding, World Bank experts have conducted several studies along the road to ensure that the best possible road will be built to benefit the Timorese people.