The board of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a $400-million emergency assistance loan, the first loan to China under the bank's disaster and emergency assistance policy, for the country to rebuild roads and schools that were destroyed or badly damaged in last year's devastating earthquake on May 12.
The loan will be used to rehabilitate and reconstruct over 350 roads and bridges, along with 12 schools, in the worst-hit counties in Sichuan and Shaanxi provinces. The projects will benefit about 5.6 million people, including many poor rural residents that were left homeless, isolated and without livelihoods after the magnitude 8.0 earthquake which killed nearly 70,000 people.
The earthquake caused extensive damage in 39 counties in Sichuan province, 4 counties in Shaanxi province and 8 counties in Gansu province. It forced evacuations of around 1.5 million people and incurred an estimated direct loss of 852.31 billion yuan, or around 3.2 percent of the country's GDP in 2008.
The reconstruction and upgrading work will be implemented over three years from 2009 to 2011.
"The projects will help to revive economic activity in the affected provinces, enabling people to resume and improve their livelihoods and return to normal life," said Manmohan Parkash, project team leader and principal transport specialist with ADB's East Asia Department.
The work will incorporate earthquake-resistant designs. Roads and schools will be rebuilt to a higher standards than the original structures. Both Sichuan and Shaanxi are prone to natural disasters and public concerns were voiced over the quality of some buildings, including schools, after last year's tragedy.
"The primary lesson (from the earthquake) is that new buildings, including schools, need to be designed to withstand seismic shocks and be built to a higher quality," Parkash said.
The loan follows two earlier ADB technical assistance grants totaling $1.65 million that were given to assess the quake damages and reconstruction needs, and to help the government develop a comprehensive disaster risk management system.
A further technical assistance grant of $700,000 is to be given to support agencies overseeing the reconstruction effort, said the ADB.
(China Daily 02/21/2009 page10)