Australia to help bridge Mekong tributaries

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The Australian government will help build bridges in Dong Thap and An Giang provinces to improve transport infrastructure in Vietnam's Mekong Delta.


It will fund with AUD160 million (US$15.83 million) over five years starting 2012 the design and supervision costs of a new road transport link called the Central Mekong Delta Connectivity Project (CMDCP).


The project comprises two high cable-stay bridges five kilometers long in total. Twenty-five kilometers of roads will connect the bridges.


The bridges - over the Tien River in Dong Thap and the Hau River in An Giang - will replace ferries that take more time to get people and vehicles across the rivers.


Tien and Hau are two tributaries of the Mekong River in Vietnam. Increasing traffic has created frequent jams at the ferry stations for several years now.


An independent study has found that the project will directly benefit five million people in the delta and provide better transport facilities to 170,000 commuters within five years of completion.


The project aims to link the Mekong Delta to the rest of Southeast Asia and beyond, and represents the largest single Australia support in mainland Southeast Asia, says a press release from the Australian embassy in Hanoi.


It says the Australian government's support in building transport infrastructure will help reduce poverty and build new economic opportunities for people in the region.


"The Mekong Delta is Vietnam's food bowl. But the delta's transport network needs a major upgrade," the release notes.


In 2000, Australian funded cable-stay bridge My Thuan was opened to traffic across the Tien River, connecting Tien Giang and Vinh Long Provinces. The bridge carries more than 5 million vehicles per year.


For the new project, the Australian government has promised to incorporate innovations to protect the bridges from the impacts of climate change such as more frequent severe weather events including severe seasonal flooding and rises in sea level.


South Korea, the Asia Development Bank and Vietnam will be other partners in this project.


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