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Bringing Roads to Life in Armenia

February 2, 2010

About 160 km of the Lifeline Road Network has been rehabilitated. Basic access to social services and livelihood opportunities have been improved by connecting the rural poor to the main road network.

World Bank Group

The roads linking villages to the main highways are often called "lifeline roads" in Armenia. They are vital for the communities located dozens and hundreds of kilometers away from urban areas. With a significant part of them last rehabilitated in the Soviet era, the lifeline roads have been left in desperately poor conditions since then, effectively cutting off rural communities from the near-by towns and big cities. Most rural roads of the country were so impassable and rundown that villagers would travel to the nearest cities only in cases of absolute necessity.

Mnatsakan Melkonyan from Haykavan village of Shirak region: "The distance from our village to Gyumri is 10 km; it used to take an hour to pass it by car. Once, a woman nearly gave birth on the way to the hospital. Now it is excellent: one can reach Gyumri in 10 minutes. Transport has become active: buses and taxis easily come to the village. Overall, there is development in our village. It was lifeless before."

" It's good to be employed in my own region. People can't live without work. I used to leave for Russia for seasonal works. The salary we get for this job is almost equal to the one earned in Russia. In addition, I am with my family; I sleep and eat in my home. "

Sirak Ohanyan

Aghavnadzor villager

Supported by the World Bank, the Lifeline Roads Improvement Project (LRIP) targeted the rehabilitation of rural roads. It was prepared in the beginning of 2009 on an accelerated procedure basis contributing to the efforts of Armenia to face the global economic crisis. The Bank and the Government managed to design, negotiate, and complete the loan arrangements within seven weeks of receiving the request from the Government. The Project has been successfully completed; its positive impact is manifold and tangible on the ground.

LRIP has ended the geographic and economic isolation of the rural communities from the regions' central cities and the capital city of Yerevan by connecting them to the main highways via safe, speedy and modern roads.

The Project created jobs in rural areas where many people lost them following the economic crisis. The number of people employed in community works was growing day-by-day. An estimated 7,650 people per month were involved in community works.

Sirak Ohanyan from Aghavnadzor village of Vayots Dzor region is upbeat with the employment opportunity at home: "It's good to be employed in my own region. People can't live without work. I used to leave for Russia for seasonal works. The salary we get for this job is almost equal to the one earned in Russia. In addition, I am with my family; I sleep and eat in my home."

The roads project has also brought the villagers close to the markets to sell their produce at. According to the Bank's Rural Infrastructure study conducted in 2004, "The poor condition of rural roads resulted in significant losses of produce in 42 percent of rural communities in Armenia, with some 24 percent of communities reporting output losses of 30 percent or more. In some communities, the losses resulting from the inability to bring crops to markets in time amount to 80 percent of the total harvest."

Nver Gasparyan, a resident of Vardenut village in Aragatsotn region, is sure that the road rehabilitation in his home village will improve his life. "We take the harvest to sell on our own, by our own cars. Renewed roads will allow us to take our produce to the market quickly and in a better state. Previously, the roads were in a poor condition; it took a long time to cross the 3 km section of the road to reach the highway. It's good now: we get there in 5 minutes. We don't pay additional money for the gasoline, nor do we damage our vehicles… Besides, young people will be more inclined to go to the city for education, and even to seek employment."

The Lifeline Roads Improvement Project has been implemented in 7 regions of Armenia. The Project envisaged rehabilitating 100 km of rural roads. Dues to savings, additional 18 km have been significantly improved. As a result, 44 rural communities and around 75,000 people, as immediate beneficiaries, are now connected to main highways and towns.

While in Armenia in October 2009, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Managing Director of the World Bankvisited the villages with reconstructed roads. Her feedback on the Project was one of satisfaction and approval.

In order to reinforce the positive impact of the Project, the Government of Armenia requested and the World Bank endorsed the Additional Financing for LRIP last fall. This will allow rehabilitating another 140 kilometers of lifeline roads, and almost 40 km of them have been already improved.