Earthquake relief from ADB

By Becca Wilkins20 February 2009

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has agreed to lend China US$ 400 million in emergency assistance to help repair schools and roads demolished and damaged in the earthquake in May last year.

The loan, which is the first to be given to China under the ADB's disaster and emergency assistance policy, is designed to ensure that authorities can carry out repair work as quickly as possible, the ADB said.

The loan will be used to rehabilitate and reconstruct more than 350 roads and bridges as well as 12 schools in the worst hit counties of Sichuan and Shaanxi provinces.

The scale of the disaster - more than 69000 people were killed and about 1.5 million were forced to flee the affected area - has prompted the Chinese government to call for international support. Direct losses from the earthquake are estimated at CNY 852 billion (US$ 125 billion) or around 3.3% of the country's gross domestic product in 2007, the ADB stated.

Manmohan Parkash, project team leader and principal transport specialist with ADB's East Asia department, said, "The project will help to revive economic activity in the affected provinces, enabling people to resume and improve their livelihoods and return to normal life."

Reconstruction work will incorporate earthquake-resistant designs and roads and schools will be rebuilt to a higher standard than the original structures.

The loan follows two earlier ADB technical assistance grants totalling US$ 1.65 million that were given to assess the quake damage and reconstruction needs, and to help the government develop a comprehensive disaster risk management system.

Following a government request, a further technical assistance grant of US$ 700000 is to be given to support agencies overseeing the reconstruction effort. It will include `the establishment of two ‘model' schools that focus on information and communication technology and natural sciences.

"These two schools will develop a model that can be replicated in other schools in the affected counties," Mr Parkash said.

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