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A first major step towards enhancing road safety in central Asia

The ‘Enhancing Road Safety for Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation Member Countries’ project, funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and implemented by IMC, is expected to dramatically decrease the number of road casualties in the region.

Wednesday 07 September 2016, Private: Lorenza Geronimo

Halving the number of road deaths by 2030 in central Asia.

This is the ambitious target of the ‘Enhancing Road Safety for Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) Member Countries’ project, funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

As part of this project, IMC has been awarded a USD 700,000 technical assistance programme, launched in May 2015, which will run until December 2016. It will result in a comprehensive regional road safety strategy and action plan, including recommendations for regulations and legislation.

The countries participating in the project are the ten CAREC members of Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Georgia, albeit not a CAREC country, is considering joining the programme.

After a first workshop held in Bangkok in April 2016, a second workshop facilitated by IMC was organised in Kuala Lumpur from 16 to 18 August. Representatives from CAREC countries’ road safety ministries and non-government organisations, ADB and other donor agencies approved a three-year action plan prepared by IMC as well as a series of targets, which tackle the five pillars of road safety management, safer roads and mobility, safer vehicles, safer roads users and post-crash response.

This will form the basis of the regional strategy, which IMC, development partners and CAREC countries will work to deliver in October 2016.

Charles Melhuish, Road Safety Consultant, IMC project team leader presenting the targets.
Charles Melhuish, Road Safety Consultant, IMC project team leader presenting the targets.

The targets agreed at the workshop in Kuala Lumpur are ambitious but achievable. Halving the number of road deaths by 2030 in the CAREC countries means saving around 23,000 lives and avoiding 250,000 serious injuries a year. In economic terms, this will save the region over USD 16 billions annually.

– Charles Melhuish, Road Safety Consultant, project team leader

Road safety in the CAREC countries

Road crashes are one of the leading causes of death worldwide, with around 1.3 million people killed every year. The World Health Organisation predicts that road traffic injuries will rise to become the fifth leading cause of death by 2030.

The toll is particularly high in low and middle income countries, where more than 90% of the world’s road fatalities occur, despite their having only 48% of the total registered vehicles, according to ADB estimates.

Traffic-related death rates in CAREC countries range from 13.1 to 21.9 per 100,000 inhabitants compared to 10.3 per 100,000 in high income countries.

Generally, road safety is not yet a priority in the region. Many of these countries do not have a formal national strategy. In those that have prepared one, such as Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, China and Uzbekistan, implementation is often poor and support to this area is underfunded.

Enhancing road safety requires adequate budget allocated by governments and data collection as well as integrated action by the different ministries, particularly the police and highway agencies.

These agencies should be working on how to make roads safer while police should enforce regulations. Due to the poor state of roads and the sheer size of some CAREC countries, it is often hard for emergency vehicles to reach crashes quickly. Hence, it is important that police and commercial fleet drivers are also trained in first aid.

More recently, this issue has started gaining prominence both among CAREC countries and donors.

Irena Georgievska, IMC Regional Manager for Central Asia, and James Reeves, IMC Senior Technical Director, Economics and Finance.
Irena Georgievska, IMC Regional Manager for Central Asia, and James Reeves, IMC Senior Technical Director, Economics and Finance.

It is great to see that road safety is an important priority for all the governments in the region and that resources and investment are being dedicated to identifying and mitigating the main causes of crashes.

– James Reeves, IMC Senior Technical Director, Economics and Finance

ADB and IMC work on road safety

The alarming road casualty numbers in central Asia, where crashes are among the leading causes of death, together with the region’s fast economic development coupled with an increase of vehicle ownership rates, have led ADB to finance this project.

More generally, the Asian Development Bank is prioritising the inclusion of the road safety component in its road sector programmes, such as those focusing on financing road building and rehabilitation of the major CAREC trade corridors.

Road safety is one of IMC’s fields of expertise. We are currently implementing several projects in this sector funded by the ADB, the European Commission, the European Investment Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the UK Department for International Development.

If the momentum is kept up and new regulations are enacted and implemented, which will be monitored annually, this project has the huge potential of helping write a new chapter in the history of road safety in central Asia.

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