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Roads in South Asia and South-East Asia

As in most rural areas around the world, farmers in South and South-East Asia do not have access to markets in which to sell their crops. To compensate for this problem, the farmers decide to lessen their crop output, only growing enough crops for their own consumption (Minot, 2007).  In order for farms to produce at potential and distribute their goods to the general population, small farmers need transportation to the large markets.

All countries have roads, but they aren’t in good condition. For example, in Cambodia (Transport 2010), most of the current non-main roads are hard to travel over and it is advised not to go off the paths because of the danger of un-detonated mines. In Mongolia, 94% of their roads are gravel or dirt roads, so traveling is uncomfortable and lengthy (Barger, 2010). In South Asia, although the railway system is more developed than in other regions in the world, roads are still the most essential way of transportation of food for people, and their condition and scale are nowhere near adequate.

Figure 1. South Asia Transportation Map
(Retrieved on Nov 29th, 2010 from PAGE123)

As shown in the map above, even the most major roads are not adequate in reaching everyone.

As we are addressing in Sub-Saharan solution page, since the scale and potential are very different, roads need to be divided into two kinds– major roads among cities and rural between markets and farms. The solutions addressed here are similar to those for Sub-Saharan countries, but have some different features because of different characters of the regions. Therefore, we recommend you to read the solutions for Sub-Saharan area first… Learn about Solutions in Sub-Saharan Africa.

In order to improve and construct more major roads, national projects will be required, like the case in Sub-Saharan Africa. Moreover, since a large amount of food trade is conducted among South-Asian countries (Subramaniam., Arnold), improving border-crossing system will decrease time and cost for the transportation of food. A treaty of making the South Asia a single trade unit allowing vehicles to pass freely between borders with necessary protocols should be implemented as soon as possible. Tax free transit allows people to be able to access cheap food. This is a long term solution because increase in GDP of the country, employment, and co-ordination in plans among the countries will be also associated with this. South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) had decided to implement SAFTA (South Asian Free Trade Arrangement) by 2001 with the similar concept of eliminating barriers across the borders of different countries, but has not been able to do until now (Taneja, p. 959). In order to achieve this, the pressure from outside countries will be also essential.

In order to improve and construct more rural roads, food-for-work programs would need to be implemented as in Sub-Saharan African countries. However, a study done by Uma Subramaniam and John Arnold points out that South Asia has a lot of local natural resources – “fertile soil, water, minerals, and energy sources” but they are not being utilized and distributed properly. Since constructing roads with local materials is one of the ways to cut costs most effectively, national governments and international organizations which are going to implement food-for-work programs will be required to conduct geographical research about construction materials, and to distribute budgets to each region properly.

To build roads in South and South-East Asia, the International Labour Organization states that the cost per cubic meter of gravel road is $6.42 (Johannessen, 2008 p. 65). In China, as of February 2010, 35,000 towns and 553,000 villages have roads already built, resulting in 3.3 million kilometers of roads (Xuequan, 2010). This length of roads with the same thickness and width mentioned by the ILO, the cost for all the roads in China under this plan would be $2.6 billion. This would be the maximum amount for a country. The minimum of the road building in Southeast Asia would be Cambodia’s roads. 28,000 of Cambodia’s roads are rural, so the cost according to this plan to build them would be $21.8 million (Rural Roads, 2008).
The step after the construction of roads is providing means of transportation. Although bicycles with trailers are recommended for Sub-Saharan countries, in South and South-East Asia trucks are more recommended for its low price shown in the table below.

(Source: Subramaniam, Arnold p. 36)
The table shows that the cost of truck transportation is significantly low. The reason is the availability of cheap local human resources and the cheap purchase cost of trucks, which are manufactured in India.
To accomplish this plan, it is needed to work with the International Labour Organization, the Asian Development Fund, mentioned in report to improve roads in Cambodia (2008) for building the roads. However, since countries are closely related to each other in the regions, the success of the plan would largely depend on the corporation of both national governments and local governments.



Works cited: 

Amuzegar, J. (Summer, 1992). The Iranian economy before and after the revolution. Middle East Journal, 42(3), 413-425. Retrieved November 19, 2010, from

Arnold, A., & Subramanian, U. (2001). Forging Subregional Links in Transportation and Logistics in South Asia(1st ed.). Washington D.C.: World Bank. Retrieved November 29, 2010, from

Johannessen, B. (2008) Building Rural Roads. International Labor Organization. Retrieved November 29, 2010, from

Justice, Scott E. Mechanizing Rural Transport via Alternative IMTs. Retrieved November 18, 2010, from

Kharel, P. National alliance against hunger in Nepal. Retrieved November 29, 2010,  from

Taneja, Nisha. (Mar. 17-23, 2001). Informal Trade in South Asia.Economic and Political Weekly, 36(11), 959. Retrieved November 29, 2010, from

The Transportation System in Cambodia. (2010). Retrieved November 29, 2010, from

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Tilak, J.B.G. (December, 1999). Education and poverty in South Asia. Prospects, 29(4), 517-532. Retrieved November 29, 2010, from