Australia says will fund A$160 mln for Mekong Delta transport

Australia will invest A$160 million over five years in a major road transport project in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam’s food bowl, representing the largest single Australian aid activity in Southeast Asia, the Australian Embassy Hanoi said Monday.

The project, called the Central Mekong Delta Connectivity Project, will link people and markets across the Mekong Delta to the rest of Southeast Asia and beyond, according to the Australian Embassy.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced this funding during her meeting with Vietnamese leaders on weekend in Hanoi, the embassy said. The Australian PM attended the ASEAN-Australia Summit on the sidelines of the 17th summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Hanoi on October 30.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard speaks at the ASEAN-Australia Summit on the sidelines of the 17th ASEAN Summit in Hanoi on October 30, 2010. AFP photo

In this project, Australia will provide a major contribution to the costs of building a new bridge across a major tributary of the Mekong River in Cao Lanh Town, Dong Thap Province.

This bridge is a vital part of the major transport project. Construction is expected to commence in 2012.

Australia will also fund the design and supervision costs for the whole project, the Australian Embassy said.

The project comprises two high cable-stay bridges with a combined length of five km and 25km of connecting roads between the two bridges.

The bridges will replace ferry services at the Cao Lanh crossing over the Tien River and a parallel crossing over the Hau River in Dong Thap’s Vam Cong Town.

According to the Australian Embassy, an independent study has confirmed that the project will be economically viable. The project will directly benefit five million people in the Delta and is expected to deliver improved transport facilities to 170,000 daily road users within five years of completion.

In 2000, My Thuan Bridge over the Tien River, also built with Australian funding, opened to traffic, connecting Tien Giang and Vinh Long provinces and replacing My Thuan ferry services. This bridge now carries more than 5 million vehicles per year.

My Thuan Bridge at night

The Australian Embassy said Australia’s contribution to the Central Mekong Delta Connectivity Project will also incorporate design innovations to protect infrastructure from the impacts of climate change in the Mekong Delta, including more frequent severe weather events, violent seasonal flooding and potential sea level rise.

The project will go with supervision from the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

Australia, South Korea, the ADB and the Government of Vietnam will be major financing partners for the project.

By Tuong Thuy

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