Fact Sheet: Supporting the Ituri Road in the Democratic Republic of Congo

October 13, 2010

Rehabilitating the road network in the Democratic Republic of Congo is critical to achieving the Government’s priorities of national unity and economic stability. Most of DRC is inaccessible: of the ten provincial capitals only two are connected by road (Matadi and Bandundu) to the capital city Kinshasa. Two more are accessible by river and air (Kisangani and Mbandaka) and the remaining six are only accessible by air.

  • About 7,000km of DRC’s 15,800km high-priority road network have been rehabilitated or are under rehabilitation since 2002 with support from a number of donors, including the World Bank.
  • The Pro-Routes project was approved by the Bank’s Board in March 2008 for $123m (including DFID co-financing of $73m) with the objective of reestablishing lasting access between three provincial capitals, districts and territories in a way that is sustainable for people and the natural environment.
  • Pro-Routes supports the reopening of 1,800km of high-priority roads as part of the Government’s continuing program with donors for rehabilitating another 3,000km of roads. 

The Ituri Road is an essential but sensitive corridor.

  • The Ituri Road is the backbone of northeastern DRC and was rehabilitated as an engineered earth road in 2006-2009 under the World Bank-supported Emergency Economic and Social Reunification Project (EESRP) approved by the Bank’s Board in September 2003 for $214m.
  • The food supply to the provincial capital, Kisangani, comes through this road as do the agricultural exports transiting through Kisangani to Kinshasa by riverBasic non-food commodities also make their way to the large population of the Oriental province through this cross-cutting axis.
  • The rehabilitation of this road hasjump-started the economy in the eastern part of the country which had been cut off from other regions for several years.
  • As a result of the road improvements more than six million people have escaped geographic isolation and transportation costs have been reduced by 40%.
  • The 740 km long road crosses the Ituri high-biodiversity rainforest over about 250 km, including the Okapi Wildlife Reserve (a World Heritage Site), and is inhabited by indigenous Batwa and Mbuti pygmy groups.
  • It is also the principal transport route for the export to Uganda and Kenya or Kinshasa of timber extracted under poorly controlled artisanal cutting permits in northeastern DRC.

Environmental and social impacts must be carefully managed.

The World Bank prepared an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment for the rehabilitation of the Ituri Road in January 2006 and an Indigenous Peoples Development Plan in October 2006. The Bank also provided support to help reduce bushmeat and timber extraction from the forest and support indigenous pygmy groups.

Reducing bushmeat and timber extraction:

  • Under challenging conditions, the Government is pursuing forest sector reform and a modern approach to forest management.
  • Along the segment of the road that passes through the Okapi Wildlife Reserve, the World Bank funded EESRP project reinforced the capacity of the Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation (ICCN) to control the illegal transport of bushmeat and other forest products by providing operating costs for park guards and equipment (radios, vehicles, guard posts).
  • Government has completed a legal review of concessions that resulted in a dramatic reduction in the area of forest under concession management, from 43.5 million ha in 2002 to about 12 million ha in 2010 (which is equivalent to 15 percent of DRC’s rainforests, much lower than other Central African countries with 40-75 percent of their forests under concession).
  • The World Bank is scaling up its support for these reforms, focusing on capacity building, community forest management, and conservation, with $77m approved by the Board in 2009.
  • In May 2010, the World Bank accompanied the Secretary-General of the Ministry of the Environment on a visit to assess the impact of small-scale loggers operating along the Ituri Road. Given the risk of illegal timber transport, the Ministry of Environment decided to fast-track the deployment of its timber tracking system in the east, to start in January 2011.

Supporting indigenous pygmy groups:

  • To address the impacts of the rehabilitation of the Ituri Road on indigenous pygmy groups and to ensure their access to project benefits, an action plan is being implemented with five main components: (i) establish citizenship; (ii) enhance income; (iii) provide education; (iv) deliver health and social services; and (v) sensitize authorities to pygmy needs. 
  • A framework for a national development strategy for pygmy communities has been preparedby the World Bank with the Government and was disseminated in December 2009. The framework analyzes factors threatening the cultural identity and livelihoods of pygmy populations, proposes corrective actions, and provides an informed basis for a national, long-term strategy for the Government.