Some of the tertiary road networks in the ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) countries are not yet developed to standards appropriate for their vital transport role. Governments and international agencies are also committed to alleviating poverty, which occurs mainly in the rural areas of these countries. Improving rural transport infrastructure will be an essential component of this strategy.
The cost of fully developing these networks will be substantial and the process is expected to extend over a time span measured in decades. With such a large commitment of resources in prospect, it will be essential that the policies, standards and arrangements for the development and maintenance of these networks make the most effective use of the available constrained resources.
Rural communities require sustainable year-round access for their basic social and economic needs. This is a fundamental requirement to support governments' efforts to reduce rural poverty. For many years gravel/laterite has been promoted as the principal surface for providing road access for rural communities. Recent research confirms the particular problems of gravel/laterite surfacing in the ASEAN region.
The paper presents the rationale for restricting the use of gravel/laterite as a road surfacing material in the region. It also proposes a strategy for mainstreaming the application of more sustainable surface options for rural roads. The long term objective is the provision of year-round access to all rural communities at low cost and with manageable maintenance liabilities. Maintenance should be feasible with the realistic mobilisation of local funding and resources and arranged with the involvement of local communities and enterprises. The rural communities should benefit from both the provision and use of the improved infrastructure.
This paper was prepared for the 20th Conference of ASEAN Federation of Engineering Organisations, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 2 - 4 September 2002.