How Better Roads Pave the Way for Economic and Social Development
Transport is a key development priority for Solomon Islands, with its population scattered across more than 900 small islands.
Upgrading the road network and making it climate-resilient have helped Solomon Islands improve people’s access to markets, education, and health services.
The Asian Development Bank-supported Second Road Improvement (Sector) Project improved the network of national, provincial, and secondary roads; established sound and sustainable road maintenance policies and practices; and enhanced participation of communities and women in road maintenance. The project was cofinanced by the governments of Australia, New Zealand, and Solomon Islands, and the European Union.
- 12 November 2009 : Start of project
- 31 December 2013 : End of project
- $33.97 million:Total cost of project
Solomon Islands is an archipelagic state in the south-west Pacific Ocean. Majority of its people are located in rural communities across several hundred islands.
More than half of the country's road network is on Guadalcanal and Malaita, which serves 90% of road traffic in the country. Other provinces do not have a reliable transport infrastructure and have dirt roads on the coasts and near the provincial centers. Lack of maintenance has left provincial and secondary roads in poor condition. To improve the movement of people and goods, as well as provide access to education, economic, and health services, the government has prioritized road rehabilitation and maintenance.
Solomon Islands is one of the emerging economies in the Pacific, with high costs of service delivery because of its geographically dispersed population. With more than 900 little islands, transport is a key development priority. The National Transport Plan calls for integrated planning, environmental and social sustainability, and for the development of infrastructure resilient to natural disasters and climate change.
The country’s economic growth will benefit greatly from improved transport infrastructure. Investments that provide jobs and other economic activities as well as access to public service facilities, such as hospitals and schools, rely on reliable ports, roads, and bridges. For Solomon Islands, poor connectivity remains a problem on top of underdeveloped labor skills, high utility costs, land tenure issues, and limited public administration and financial management capacity.
The first road improvement project rehabilitated 57 kilometers (km) of roads and 17 bridges in Makira province. The government requested further assistance from ADB to address road connectivity needs in the Guadalcanal and Malaita provinces, among other things. Priorities under the second project were based on the National Transport Plan, as well as on the urgency of restoring the road links damaged by floods in February 2009 and January 2010.
To restore and provide road connectivity for the rural communities in Guadalcanal and Malaita, the Second Road Improvement (Sector) Project undertook the following:
- rehabilitated and identified roads and bridges not covered by the first project, and repaired roads damaged in the floods of 2009 and 2010. This first approach also sought climate-proofing of waterway crossings and road improvements for climate change adaption;
- maintained road sections reconstructed under the first project; and
- provided project management training that covered planning, assessing, designing, managing, and implementing infrastructure projects.
The project rehabilitated 63 km of road and constructed 84 crossings in Makira, West Guadalcanal, and North Malaita provinces. This was done through systematic consultation with communities and other stakeholders.
In 2009 and 2010, heavy rain caused floods that damaged roads and bridges in some parts of Guadalcanal and the Malaita and Makira provinces. The project restored connectivity through routine and periodic road maintenance in the east and west parts of Solomon Islands’ capital Honiara. Routine maintenance contracts covered 57.4 km in four provinces: Central, Guadalcanal, Isabel, and Western.
The project strengthened the government's capacities in designing and implementing transport infrastructure projects. Broader technical and safeguards capacity building was provided to government institutions, contractors, local consultants, NGOs, and beneficiary communities.
The clearest indication of the project's success was how it improved the communities' daily grind in good and bad weather conditions. In Makira province, an additional 19 km of roads and 11 bridges were built, bringing the total outputs for the first and second projects to 77 km roads and 28 bridges in the province. Before the project, roads became impassable and unusable when the floods came, and travel time to and from adjacent provinces took days.
Now, residents in Makira have improved accessibility to the provincial capital Kira Kira with all-weather road connectivity. The average travel speed increased to 45 km per hour from 25 km per hour before the project. Health services are now easily accessible with average travel time to the nearest health clinic decreasing by 70%.
The all-weather roads to Honiara improved accessibility and mobility significantly for West Guadalcanal residents. For example, the travel time between Honiara and Selwyn College on Guadalcanal Island decreased to 1 hour compared with the 3-hour boat journey before the project. This caused a marked increase in enrollment at the college, a year after some 30 km of roads and more than a dozen water crossing structures in Guadalcanal were rehabilitated and reconstructed.
Economic activities increased as transport operators report a 71% jump in logistics movement in the area. Public transport improved with more buses servicing three to four return trips a day and transport cost decreasing by as much as 50%. These improved people’s livelihoods.
Achieving sustainability of project outcomes requires a consistent and long-term commitment of both government and donors.
Communication and stakeholders' engagement is important for processes and decisions to be fully understood and accepted. Likewise, projects need a communication line to the community and locals. This is important in resolving conflicts between implementers and beneficiaries and avoids community dissatisfaction.
Long-term donor engagement may be possible when economic safeguards procedures are in place.
Implementers on the ground should be supportive of the intervention to not only ensure sustainability but also enable the replication of processes in other areas of similar concern in the country,
Including measures for climate change adaptation in project design ensures sustainable outcomes. This is important for island-countries like the Solomon Islands that need to cope with the effects of climate change and global warming.
Asian Development Bank (ADB). 2015. Completion Report: Second Road Improvement (Sector) Project in Solomon Islands. Manila.
European Union. 2011. Solomon Islands Road Improvement (Sector) Project (SIRIP 2) – FED/2010/22220.
The Commonwealth. Solomon Islands: Economy.
Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Solomon Islands country brief.
ADB. 2019. Asian Development Bank and Solomon Islands: Fact Sheet. Manila.
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