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Launch of the National Road Rehabilitation (Osh-Batken-Isfana) Project and the World Bank Road Safety Report

February 18, 2010

Bishkek, February 18, 2010 – Today, the Ministry of Transport of the Kyrgyz Republic and the World Bank held a workshop to launch the National Road Rehabilitation (Osh-Batken-Isfana) Project and the World Bank Road Safety Report.  Participants of this workshop include members of the parliament, representatives of government agencies, and mass media of the Kyrgyz Republic.

The National Road Rehabilitation (Osh-Batken-Isfana) Project

The National Road Rehabilitation Project (NRRP) is one of the priority infrastructure investments identified in the Government’s Country Development Strategy for 2009-2011.  In November 2009, the World Bank approved allocation of US $25 million equivalent for this purpose.  The new project will contribute to the reduction of transport costs and travel time along the Osh-Batken-Isfana Road corridor, allow more direct travel between destinations for road users, creating a more accessible, reliable and safe transport system as a result.  According to World Bank Country Manager Roger J. Robinson, this investment, once implemented, will open up the only land transport connection between the main Kyrgyz cities in Fergana Valley and the rest of the country. About one million inhabitants or 18% of the country’s population will benefit.

The NRRP will finance the rehabilitation of about 30 kilometers of a section of the Osh-Batken-Isfana road, one of the six strategic corridors in the Kyrgyz Republic. The original alignment of this road corridor crosses through Uzbek territory at Kok-Talaa, and at Sokh and through Tajikistan at Vorukh.  Traveling this road was no problem in the past when there was one transport network connecting cities from within the Former Soviet Union and the Fergana Valley. However, since 1991, travelling the same route requires frequent delays at border crossings.  Existing secondary roads deviate around 110 kilometers from the original alignment (so-called ‘detours’), however, they are in poor condition. This project will help the Government to rehabilitate the detours and link them with the original alignment.  The NRRP will be implemented within three years by the Ministry of Transport and Communications.

The World Bank Road Safety Report

The recently released “Confronting “Death on Wheels”: Making Roads Safe in Europe and Central Asia” World Bank Report draws attention of countries in the Europe and Central Asia region to the need to develop a systematic response to improve road safety, to protect the health and economic wellbeing of their citizens. Weak road safety planning and management capacity, deteriorated roads, unsafe vehicles, poor driver behaviour, patchy enforcement of road safety laws, and exponential growth in the number of vehicles have contributed to increasing road traffic injuries and fatalities in the region.

According to the report, 55% of road traffic deaths in the selected countries are among people aged between 5 and 44, more than 80% of them men. Children and elderly people are also vulnerable on the roads, especially as pedestrians, and are seven to nine times more likely to be killed in a road crash than car occupants. The report says, "Human impact of the traffic crashes is enormous, with families being driven into poverty because of the mounting costs of medical care and rehabilitation or loss of the main breadwinner."  At the same time, growing magnitude of the problem is also bringing a national dimension to it, contributing to the demographic crisis and imposing additional burdens on the country’s economy which bears losses as a result of traffic injuries and fatalities.

Road safety is one of the key components of the World Bank-funded projects in the transport sector.  Taking into consideration the findings of the report, the NRRP will focus on the following recommendations that set out the strategic initiatives necessary to improve road safety planning in the Kyrgyz Republic: (i) an in-depth assessment of the problem, policies, and institutional settings relating to road traffic injury, and the capacity for road traffic injury prevention, (ii) the development and launch of a national road safety program (including a strategy and a plan of action), and (iii) the preparation of pilot demonstration projects on road safety with a focus on the section to be rehabilitated under the NRRP and similar activities to improve road safety planning.