RAIDP Roads Changing Lives

Access to roads is a key factor to bring about a transformation in the livelihood of the rural people. Following the construction of roads under Rural Access Improvement and Decentralization Project (RAIDP), the life of more than 2 million people liv

Aug. 26, 2012, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol.: 06 No.-06 Aug. 24-2012 (Bhadra 08,2069)<br>

Mani Kumar Katuwal, 50, a farmer of Jhulke Village Development Committee of Udayapur District, 600 kilometers east of the capital, saw his annual family income rise by five times after the construction of an all-weather road linking the village with the highway. Katuwal now sells his agriculture produce and milk products to urban areas.

“Every day, the milk tankers come to collect the milk and the traders come to us to buy our agriculture products, including vegetables. I am getting much higher prices for my products now than I did five years ago,” said Katuwal.

With road connection with the rest of the country, Katuwal’s income jumped to Rs. 15,000 or about US $150 a month.

“Now, I can go to Kathmandu or any other city by bus and return the next day.”

Katuwal is not alone making higher income after the road link opened. Most residents of Jhulke and the surrounding area have several reasons to rejoice. Farmers like Katuwal, who used to grow subsistence products like rice, wheat and mustard, are now growing vegetables to supply to urban centers.

The story does not end here. Hansa Chaudhari, 28, a primary school teacher of Bholtar, for example, holds the view that the number of school dropouts has declined due to the access to the road. "Two years ago, out of 60 students enrolled in Bhimsen Adarsha Nimna Madhyamik Vidyalaya, 40 dropped out the final exam. This year, out of 70 students enrolled, only 20 did not appear the final exam," said Chaudhari, a primary teacher.  "We are also proud to say that we have contributed our land voluntarily to construct the road. This road is our lifeline now," said Chaudhari.

He said people were also developing the habit of visiting hospitals and health posts when needed.

There are 226,309 households with 1332602 people in the 248 VDCs with 1326 settlements under the zone of influence of the rural road projects. The RAIDP has already constructed more than 907 kilometers of roads. Of the total roads, 21, that is, nearly 62 percent roads, lie in Terai districts, and 13 roads (38 percent) in the hill districts. Of the total length of the roads, 520 km (nearly 58 percent) lies in Terai districts and 397 km (nearly 42 percent) in the hill.

Pralad Burma, a resident of Hardi village of Rupendehi district, in the bordering town of southern terai, 400 kilometer west of capital Kathmandu, too has seen similar transformation in the lives of people after the construction of roads. "The road helps us to ferry agriculture products, including vegetables, to the market in a short period of time," said Burma. "As we can sell fresh vegetables, our income has gone up. I am sending my children to school and I also have some additional money."

One of the beauties of the RAIDP's road projects is that the road is built up with the voluntary contribution of the land by the people. The road is constructed with the demand of people rather than being imposed from the center.  The construction of rural roads helps increase productivity and mobility of the people. The utilization of improved rural transport infrastructure and service has contributed to reduce the level of poverty.

Rural Access and Decentralization Project has been implemented with the financial assistance of the World Bank since 2005. One of the aims of the project is to improve the existing rural roads, construct trail bridges and support for improvement of livelihood to eradicate poverty and good governance and accountability in the rural areas.

RAIDP program is designed to support efforts at poverty reduction in rural areas by promoting economic development and providing access to basic services that can increase the quality of life of the poor.

"RAIDP is one of the best rural road upgrading and construction projects of DoLIDAR with the financial assistance of the World Bank operating in 30 districts of Nepal. The project, along with existing road upgrading and construction is very much concerned with social and environmental issues equally," said Bhupendra Bahadur Basnet, director general of Department of Local Infrastructure Development and Agricultural Roads (DOLiDAR). “Moreover, the project has applied Good Governance and Accountability Action Plan (GAAP) which ensures responsible governance and cost effectiveness in each components of the project."

Increased Mobility

Thanks to the construction of roads, between 2006/07 and 2011, the number of all types of vehicles has increased. The overall growth of motorized vehicles is 37 percent. Similarly, 33 percent increment is seen of non-motorized vehicles during the same period. Increased rate of vehicles varies by districts. Among the vehicles jeep/ car/taxi increased by 52 percent followed by truck 44 percent, motorcycle 42 percent, and bus 35 percent. The travel time has come down 20-50 percent in the period of five years.

There are altogether 34 rural roads in original 20 districts of the RAIDP. Of the total roads, 12 are in Terai districts and the remaining are in the hill districts. Eight terai districts have two road projects. According to RAIDP, the project districts can be grouped into four clusters. Cluster I includes Kailali, Bardiya and Salyan and cluster two includes Kapilvastu, Rupandehi, Nawalparasi and Palpa. Similarly, cluster III includes Rasuwa, Kaski, Syangja, Dhading, Nuwakot and Makwanpur and cluster four includes Rautahat, Sarlahi, Mahottari, Dhanusha, Siraha and Udayapur.

Within a span of a decade, more than 907 kilometers of road have already been constructed under RAIDP road project.

Disparities in mobility

More commercial activities happen in terai, as shown by the higher volume of traffic in Janakpur and other terai areas. However, the lowest traffic volume is in Rasuwa district because of low commercial activities. For all these clusters, travelling time for market center, hospitals and higher education center has reduced drastically in the project areas.

The number of motorcycle users for marketing has increased in both project and control areas. Interestingly, jeep users have also increased by six percent in the project area and two percent in the control area.

Average distance of road and bus stop from households in project area was 4.14 kilometers. Bus is common means of transportation for getting farm inputs in the project area. The transport cost for improved seed and fertilizer is 0.85 and 0.81 paisa per kg respectively. Meanwhile control villages have to pay Rs.1.36 per kg while transporting chemical fertilizers to their farm land. Prices of all agricultural commodities are higher in farm gate of project area than control village. Following the RAIDP's road intervention, poultry farms in project areas were established.

Due to availability of fertilizers and accessibility to market, average production of paddy, wheat and maize has increased 4 to 5 times more than baseline study 2006/07. Residents have started to grow more crops for market than household consumption due to market network and transportation facilities. Non-farming activities have also increased in the area. Compared to the previous years, the number of people working in non-agriculture sector is much higher. Road connectivity has made it possible to establish many social institutions in the project area. Financial institutions have increased by 3.4 times in the area.

Thanks to the construction of the roads, the market has expanded, so the service sector jobs. The prices of land have also drastically gone up. Primary school enrolment, literacy rate and male female student ratio is also higher in the project area. Due to road project, the dropout rate has also declined. Over 85 percent of the children in the project areas have access to the primary schools. Out of total students, 60 percent of the students have access to transportation. As the road network expanded, the reach of the common people in the health centers increased. There are hundred percent immunizations and no reports of death due to not getting timely treatment. After the road links, the death from snake bites has also declined. In the hill areas, the road access has made it possible to call the doctor in the village in the time of emergency.

Food stores have been established along the RAIDP road in the terai.  The food supply in the project areas has also increased due to road transportation. This is one of the first projects to apply the Governance and Accountability Action Plan. The project officials hold the view that it is a technique for promoting good governance and cost effectiveness of the project.

Unlike other urban roads, the road constructed under RAIDP project has its own character. Instead of following the traditional top down approach, this road is built following the bottom up approach. The project concept begins with the demand of the people.

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