Kalay-Falam-Hakha Highway to be Upgraded With World Bank Loan

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Discussions are underway between the government and the World Bank for funding to upgrade the road linking Kalay in Sagaing Region with Falam and Hakha in Chin State, a government representative said.

Zong Lae Thang, a parliamentarian for Constituency (4) in Chin state, asked in the legislature last week whether and when the plans to improve the road would be completed.  

U Kyaw Lin, deputy minister for the Union’s construction ministry, said in the parliamentary session that the project would be started “as soon as possible” but could not be rushed. 

“This Kalay-Falam-Hakha road upgrade project is a joint project with an international agency, he said, referring to the World Bank. “We have to follow the rules and procedures exactly. Even though the project implementation seems to be delayed, we are often discussing it with the task forces of the World Bank.”

The Union government and the World Bank signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the project, which involves the upgrade of 124 miles of highway at a cost of US$66.8 million. The environmental and social impact assessments are being implemented by the Australian firm Cardno, and are in their first phases.

U Kyaw Lin said that the government had already selected a firm to design and build the road, following a call for tenders. According to the existing MoU, part of the road will be upgraded using loans from World Bank and part is funded through loans from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

He added that his ministry had already requested 7.8 billion kyat from both the Union and Chin State governments to upgrade roads during the 2019-2020 fiscal year.

The Chin Civil Society Network director Salai Jacob Thang said that the Kalay-Falam-Hakha road is vital for people in northern Chin State, but that travel is difficult.

“People use this road to transport rice, foods, and other materials from Kalay town. Currently, we have to spend the whole day traveling from Kalay to Hakha. This road is not good. After they upgrade this road, our travel time will be reduced from eight hours to four hours,” he told Khonumthung News.  

Reuters reported in May that the World Bank came under fire by non-governmental organizations and rights activists for a controversial $100 million development plan to be implemented in neighboring Rakhine State, where conflict between the military and the Arakan Army has displaced tens of thousands. Rakhine State is also the site of the war crimes against the Rohingya for which the military is now being investigated by the United Nations.

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