ADB, Australia to support construction of new Mekong River bridge

By Richard High01 June 2011

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a US$ 26 million technical assistance (TA) grant, financed by the Australian Government, to support the Central Mekong Delta Region Connectivity Project.

The project will prepare detailed designs and implementation support for the construction of two cable-stayed bridges and a 25 km road connecting the structures. Each bridge will be 2 km long, with a six-lane roadway (three lanes in each direction) 40 m above the Mekong River.

The TA is part of the Australian Government's commitment to provide a AU$ 160 million (US$ 171 million) grant to the Government of Viet Nam for the project, as announced by Australia's Prime Minister during her official visit to Viet Nam in October 2010.

Australia's grant contribution will help finance the engineering, design and construction supervision of the project, as well as provide a major contribution to the cost of building the Cao Lahn Bridge across the Mekong River in Dong Thap province.

The construction of the other bridge, Vam Cong Bridge, is supported by the Government of the Republic of Korea through a US$ 200 million loan agreement signed with the Government of Viet Nam. It is a significant co-financing effort on the part of the official development partners to Viet Nam for this flagship project, which has an estimated cost of US$ 750 million.

"While the Mekong Delta has an extensive inland waterway network that operates effectively and best suited for bulk agricultural products, the current road transport network is constrained by poor connections, narrow pavements, and frequent waterway crossings.

"The absence of a reliable road network in the Mekong Delta is a significant constraint to attracting higher-value agricultural and industrial investments that would lead to an increase in economic activity," said James Lynch, Director of ADB's Transport and Communication Division, Southeast Asia Department.

Once constructed, the bridges are expected to carry 170000 users per day and help connect and benefit the five million residents of An Giang, Can Tho, and Dong Thap provinces. The bridges and road will also improve transport services across and within the Central Mekong Delta region by connecting Ho Chi Minh City with the southwestern region of the Mekong Delta.

"This TA will finance consulting services to prepare detailed engineering designs and bidding documents for Cao Lahn Bridge and the road that connects the two bridges.

"A consulting firm recruited under the TA will also assist the Government of Viet Nam with procurement of works and supervise construction, ensure the project's adherence to ADB's Safeguard Policy Statement, and help implement its social action plan," said Rustam Ishenaliev, ADB's Transport Specialist.

The Ministry of Transport is the executing agency for the TA. It is expected that the engineering designs and bidding process will be completed within 2012 and construction will start in 2013. The bridge and connecting road are expected to open for public use in 2017.

The Australian Government works in partnership with ADB, ensuring Australia's overseas aid program contributes to achieving the Millennium Development Goals, the world's blueprint to halve chronic poverty by 2015.

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