How to Improve Rural Roads in Southeast Asia

Some countries in Southeast Asia are examining the use of soil stabilized roads as a cost effective alternative to traditional paving. Photo credit: ADB.

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Soil stabilizers can cut the costs, and improve the quality, of rural roads in Southeast Asia.


This study is intended to evaluate the applicability of surface stabilized soil paving to rural roads in Southeast Asian countries. This is being done through test applications as well as by establishing a cooperative network of local builders. The field test application was conducted on farm roads at Bera, Pahang province, in Malaysia, through test applications that evaluate the applicability of a soil stabilizing building subbase.

Test construction site(Malaysia)

Checking the status of water content in original ground of the construction site

Evacuation of surface layer

Transporting and laying soil-stabilizer on ground

Mixing stabilizer with ground

Compacting ground & spraying water after compaction

Plate bearing test on original ground and surface stabilized soil

Original ground of farm road


The development gap between urban and rural areas in Southeast Asian countries, including Thailand and Malaysia, has caused the rural areas to suffer from poor road infrastructure. The soil in rural areas is similar, with weathered soil that is easily washed away by a small amount of rainfall that causes settlement and slurry, making the farm road useless. Particularly, palm oil farms where trucks are used have difficulties with the unpaved roads being damaged and washed away by rain. It is difficult for the governments to pave the road with asphalt or concrete, which is costly. Furthermore, the service life of concrete paved farm road is only one or two years due to the soft roadbed and the costs are high to maintain the roads each year.

  • Development of optimal application measures of surface stabilizing soil in Southeast Asian countries
  • Evaluation of applicability of surface stabilizing soil method in Southeast Asian countries

Surface stabilized soil paving is the mixture of cement, pozzolan, lime and inorganic salt in an ideal ratio, which solidifies when it reacts to cement and additives. It forms long-term, strong stable ground in a short time on any type of soft base.

In the Korean context, surface stabilized soil paving is often applied to the trail at the park or for environmental or construction purposes, instead of road pavement, because of cost efficiency, constructability and ease of use on frozen ground. But when applying to Southeast Asian countries, making use of accumulated construction experience and technology, knowhow and production technology of quality stabilizing materials, surface stabilized soil works well for for farm road construction. It is easy to apply, cost efficient and maintenance efficient. It works well in Southeast Asia, given the financial capability, maintenance effort, workability and cost.


For evaluation of applicability of surface stabilized soil paving to Southeast Asia region, field test application was conducted to the farm roads of Bera, Pahang province in Malaysia. The test included a physical property test of stabilizing soil and a base ground and plate loading test to evaluate the improvement in bearing capacity, and as result, bearing capacity was increased to 2.4 times of base ground of the farm road.

Test application to evaluate the applicability of stabilizing soil to building subbase was conducted. As a result of applying stabilizing soil to the foundation at a housing redevelopment site, settlement was about 1.6% when using stabilizing soil to building subbase.

Dae-Young Lee
Research Fellow, Department of Geotechnical Engineering Research, Korea Institute of Civil Engineering and Building Technology

Dae-Young Lee’s main research fields are soft ground design and ground subsidence, reinforcement, maintenance, rehabilitation, and management. He received his doctoral degree in Geotechnical Engineering from Sung Kyun Kwan University.

Korea Institute of Civil Engineering and Building Technology (KICT)

The Korea Institute of Civil Engineering and Building Technology contributes to the development of the Korean construction industry, improves quality of life standards, furthers national economic growth, and improves social welfare. It promotes original technology in the fields of land, infrastructure, and construction.

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