(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

Poor roads hamper cyclone recovery

Roads transport becomes difficult within minutes of leaving Dala Town in Myanmar's cyclone-affected Yangon Division.
Lynn Maung/IRIN

Bad roads continue to restrict the delivery of much-needed relief and recovery supplies to survivors of Cyclone Nargis.

The end of the rainy season this month would be the best time to begin road and bridge rehabilitation work, according to specialists.
 
As well as impacting organised relief operations, bad roads mean fewer private Burmese donors are reportedly travelling to the affected areas, while commodity prices are up due to higher transport costs.  
 
According to the recent Post-Nargis Joint Assessment (PONJA), the national highway from Yangon, the commercial capital, to Patein in the delta is a 6m wide, bituminous sealed road, while most of the other main roads to the area are unsealed, typically 3-4m wide.
 
In remote rural areas, there were few engineered roads and bridges. Most of the villages in the area were accessible either by informal vehicle tracks in the dry season or by boat.
 
Damaged roads
 
Many roads received secondary damage after the cyclone due to heavy traffic from trucks bringing in aid and subsequent heavy rain.
 
Most of the primary road network (particularly the unsealed roads) and some key bridges were not designed to handle the weight of relief trucks, the report said. More than four months on, the combined effects mean higher vehicle operating costs and longer journeys. 
 


Photo: Lynn Maung/IRIN
Muddied, poorly maintained tracts like this one are common in Myanmar' cyclone-affected Ayeyarwady Delta

Before the cyclone, most of the storm-ravaged towns could be reached by road from Yangon, while inland waterways were used to access remote villages, where there were few engineered roads and bridges.
 
In particular, two primary routes, Yangon-Pathein and Yangon-Kunchangone-Pyapon-Bogale, were badly affected, forcing donors and NGOs to find alternative routes to reach beneficiaries – including water transport, which has also increased in cost.  
 
“We can use WFP [World Food Programme] flights for passengers,” said one NGO official. “But we have to mainly rely on water transport to transfer the goods from Yangon to the storm-ravaged areas.”
 
Recovery efforts are heavily dependent on good road transport, while water transport is only an option for more remote parts of the delta, he added.

Government efforts

Along the motorway from Dala to Tuntay and on the Kawmhu-Kunchangone-Daedayal-Pyapon-Bogale route, some repairs are under way.  

”Land-filling [with stones] is just a short-term solution ... They [the government] should pave these roads for the long term,” said a passer-by , as labourers filled in potholes between Kunchangone and Daedayal with grass, earth and small stones.

“But it’s better than nothing,” he added.

Meanwhile, the government has started paving major roads in the delta.

“We need to build bridges too over the rivers and streams,” said a government official, conceding, however, that the process “would take some years”.

The government maintained it would pave the roads within three years, and promised that all the roads would be repaired so they would be ready when the monsoon season starts next year.
 
At the same time, the government has pledged to improve water transport services from Yangon to the delta.

lm/ds/mw/bp

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