Japan has granted Papua New Guinea around US$3.03 million to help construct iron road bridges in remote Highlands Province of the Pacific island.
Justin Tkatchenko, foreign affairs minister of Papua New Guinea, said the bridges will allow local populations to more easily access health care services and bring their produce and goods to markets.
The money for the bridges and their assembly will go to Papua’s Department of National Monitoring and Planning as well as the Department of Works and Highways, according to local media.
Tkatchenko and Nobuyuki Watanabe, Japan’s ambassador to the Papua, signed the agreement in the capital Port Moresby. “Transportation and traffic infrastructure necessary for basic living and economic activities is not well developed,” Watanabe said. “Many villages and communities in mountainous areas are still isolated by rivers because there are no bridges or existing bridges are deteriorating.”
The interior of Papua New Guinea poorly served by roads and even Port Moresby is not connected to Lae, an industrial city, or other big population centres. Local media said that the government aims to build or upgrade more than 16,000km of road by 2040 at a total cost of $5.6 billion.
The central government has said it has funding commitments from donor countries including China, Japan and Australia and lenders including the World Bank.
The longest road in the country is the Highlands Highway, sometimes known as the Okuk Highway and which links Lae and Madang to the Highlands region. It is also the main highway in Papua New Guinea. However, it is mostly a single carriageway two-lane road which is often hindered by potholes and land slips. It is also notorious, particularly in the Highlands region, for being the place of numerous armed hold-ups.
The Kiunga-Tabubil Highway is a privately maintained road that links highland communities in Western Province.
The country's Sustainable Highlands Highway Investment Programme is backed by several international development banks. It aims to improve and maintain over 400km of the Highlands Highway and incorporate road safety features and logistics services for agriculture, a major economic sector for the nation. Papua New Guinea occupies the eastern half of the island of New Guinea and offshore islands in Melanesia, a region of the southwestern Pacific Ocean north of Australia.