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June 27, 2014: This Week in #SouthAsiaDev

Mary Ongwen's picture
We've rounded up 20 tweets, posts, links, and +1's on South Asia-related development news, innovation and social good that caught our eye this week. Countries included: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal

Time is Money, especially on Cairo’s Streets

Hartwig Schafer's picture
 Om Prakash Agarwal

When I told friends and colleagues that my new job would be based in Cairo, almost everyone mentioned the awful congestion in the city, and how I would be wasting a tremendous amount of time being stuck in traffic. And how right they were: When it comes to traffic, Cairo is one of the most congested cities in the world. Of course, the city’s residents already know congestion is one of the city’s biggest problems. What they probably don’t know is exactly how much it’s costing them.

Bhutan: Connectivity in the Cloud(s)

Charles Kunaka's picture

Bhutan has some of the most thrilling rides in the world—in the air and on the ground.
 
Flying into Paro Airport, the only international airport in Bhutan, is an experience like none other—its narrow runway tucked between rugged 18,000-foot peaks, high in the Himalayas. Below, the road between Thimphu, the capital, and the border city of Phuentsholing twists and turns as it navigates some of the world’s highest mountain passes, often blanketed in fog with visibility reduced to mere meters. On clear days, both offer some of the most stunning, breathtaking views you will ever see.
 
But stunning peaks do not make for easy trade routes, and this is a problem in Bhutan. That’s why the World Bank’s International Trade Unit teamed up with the South Asia Transport Unit to conduct a diagnostic of impediments to transport and trade facilitation in Bhutan.  The diagnostic, a prelude to a potential investment operation, was based on the recently released Trade and Transport Corridor Management Toolkit.
 

Minister’s Death in a Crash: A Wake up Call for India

Arnab Bandyopadhyay's picture
It is true for a country like India that thousands of deaths every year is just a statistic, but a single death can move the entire nation to take a serious look into an issue.

Merely eight days after being sworn in, the newly elected Indian Minister for Rural Development, Mr. Gopinath Munde, died in a tragic car crash. While the nation grieves at the passing of an immensely popular and celebrated leader, politicians and the public got a reality check on the seriousness of the road safety epidemic prevalent in the country today.

The irony of the event was that a day before the incident, both authors of this post met with the Joint Secretary and Executive Officers of the Ministry of Rural Development to discuss improvements to road safety under the existing World Bank-funded Rural Roads project. This news is a stark reminder for the government and the Bank alike that a lot remains to be accomplished if we are to achieve a sustainable reduction in road deaths in India.

The Minister’s death added to the alarming list of fatalities that make India’s roads among the most dangerous in the world. Official statistics say around 140,000 people in the country die of such preventable crashes every year and health reports suggest even more. Simply put, 10% of the world’s road deaths take place on India’s roads – which account for less than 3% of the world’s vehicles! In light of those figures, India urgently needs to take comprehensive action to make its roads safer.

Resilience vs. Vulnerability in African Drylands

Paul Brenton's picture
Woman carries wood in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Source- Guillaume Colin & Pauline Penot

It’s 38°C (99°F) in Ouagadougou, the capitol city of Burkina Faso, today—and it’s been this hot all week. The end of the warm season is near, but in places like Ouaga (pronounced WAH-ga, as its better known), temperatures stay high year-round. These are the African drylands: hot, arid, and vulnerable.

Over 40 percent of the African continent is classified as drylands, and it is home to over 325 million people. For millennia, the people of these regions have adapted to conditions of permanent water scarcity, erratic precipitation patterns, and the constant threat of drought. But while urban centers like Cairo and Johannesburg have managed to thrive under these harsh conditions, others have remained mired in low productivity and widespread poverty. 

The World Bank has been partnering with a team of regional and international agencies to prepare a major study on policies, programs, and projects to reduce the vulnerability and enhance the resilience of populations living in drylands regions of Sub-Saharan Africa.

The Downside of Proximity

Sanjay Kathuria's picture

 

Buy a leather case for your wife’s smartphone on Amazon, select shipping from China with an estimated delivery time of 4-6 weeks, and then be pleasantly surprised when it turns up on your Virginia doorstep in 11 days.  The marvels of the modern age – of technology, globalization, and shrinking distances.

Where does South Asia stand on export delivery? Figure 1 illustrates that compared to other economic units around the globe, it is a lot more difficult to trade with(in) SAFTA (South Asia Free Trade Agreement). It also shows that bureaucratic hurdles and the time it takes to trade go hand-in-hand. While the region does relatively well on trade with Europe or East Asia, intra-South Asian trade has remained low and costly.  It costs South Asian countries more to trade with their immediate neighbors, compared to their costs to trade with distant Brazil (see below)!  In fact, it is cheaper for South Asian countries to export to anywhere else in the world than to export to each other (Figure 3).  In other words, South Asia has converted its proximity into a handicap.   

Passengers of recently opened Wuzhou-Nanning rail line describe new opportunities

Gerald Ollivier's picture

World Bank Sr. Infrastructure Specialist Gerald Ollivier interacts with passengers on the new Wuzhou-Nanning rail line
During a supervision mission in May, our team had the chance to hear from railway users about the many ways in which the new rail line between Wuzhou and Nanning is already having an impact on their lives. Compared to the relatively theoretical ways in which we often assess and talk about railway impact (think "agglomeration benefits" or "improved connectivity and accessibility"), I found this experience refreshing and gratifying. For many, the opening of a new railway line brings about a host of opportunities, whether it is new jobs, the possibility of meeting more clients or meeting existing clients more frequently, a chance to visit relatives located far away, or maybe even an opportunity to do a bit of tourism.

The first half of the NanGuang railway line opened in mid April 2014. It is one of the six railway projects currently supported by the World Bank in China. It connects the city of Wuzhou to Nanning, two cities located 240 km apart, in the relatively poor autonomous region of Guangxi.  The train, a brand new Electric Motorized Unit (see picture below), is clean and modern. It cuts across a highly mountainous terrain, zooming at about 200 kph through many tunnels and bridges.

Eliminating Customs of Corruption: New Approaches in Cameroon & Afghanistan

Gerard McLinden's picture

Corruption continues to plague customs administrations around the world regardless of their level of development and despite intense public attention.

Recent high profile cases in many first world countries reinforce what we always knew—that no country is immune, and that there are no quick fix solutions available. The very nature of customs work makes it vulnerable to many forms of corruption, from the payment of informal facilitation fees to large scale fraud and other serious criminal activities.

But this blanket generalization belies some genuine progress in countries where reforms are making a measurable impact on operational effectiveness and integrity. 
 

Transit-oriented development — What does it take to get it right?

Chyi-Yun Huang's picture
Follow the authors on Twitter: @chyiyunhuang and @shomik_raj
 
A recent trip to Addis Ababa really brought the imperatives of transit-oriented development as a complement to mass transit investments home to us. As a strategic response to rapid urbanization and growing motorization rates, Addis is one of several African cities currently developing public mass transit systems such as light rail and bus-rapid transit. Similar initiatives are budding in Dar es Salaam, Nairobi, and other cities in South Africa.

It is well known that transit-oriented development, or ToD, is a high-value complement to mass transit development. Compact, mixed-use, high density development around key mass transit stations can have the dual benefits of creating a ridership base that enhances the economic and financial viability of the mass transit investment and compounding the accessibility benefits a mass transit system can bring to a city’s residents. This is not to mention the intrinsic value in creating vibrant social gathering places for communities at strategic locations.

How do you create a shared vision for smart city mobility?

Victor Mulas's picture


For Concepción, Chile, a smart city began with people using Lego blocks.

Together with the World Bank, Chile's Unit of Smart Cities in its Ministry of Transport and Telecommunications has been working with Concepción to create a vision for techonology solutions that will help build the Gran Concepción of 2025. A variety of stakeholders including local and municipal government officials, academic staff, the private sector, civil society actors and citizens participated in a vision exercise during a co-creation workshop. The workshop applied design thinking and foresight analysis techniques, organized teams with different stakeholders and assigned roles to each different group.

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