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Studies Seek Solutions to Asian Transportation Woes

The Asian Development Bank, or ADB, is funding studies in selected Asian cities to help develop sustainable urban transportation systems. The bank says transportation systems in most of the region's cities are inadequate, and it is poor people who suffer most. Claudia Blume reports from VOA's Asia News Center in Hong Kong.

The ADB blames limited and piecemeal investment for the lack of development of transportation systems in many Asian urban centers. The result has been congestion, pollution and poor road discipline.

Other problems include poor traffic management, unregulated private buses and unplanned road networks. Public transportation in most of the region's cities is inadequate, yet a large proportion of the region's urban residents depend on it.

Eunkyung Kwon, a transportation specialist at the ADB, says this worsens the problem for many of Asia's urban poor.

"If the public transport system is not adequate in terms of the quality of services and the price of the services and the network itself, then usually the poor are the ones who have to give up the services and they have to walk instead of using the public transport system," said Kwon.

Lack of affordable transportation can block poor people from getting good jobs or sending their children to school. In addition, air pollution, noise and road congestion caused by cars and unregulated buses plague cities without good public transit systems. These problems particularly afflict crowded slums.

The ADB field studies are being carried out this year in cities in China, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Other countries will be added in a second phase of the project.

Kwon says better transportation systems will contribute to urban economic growth.

"If for the economy to grow sustainably and continuously, I think that without [an] adequate transport system which tackles these kinds of problems - vehicle emissions, pollution and congestion - that's the must prerequisite for sustainable economic growth," said Kwon.

Kwon says solutions will be customized for each city. In the Bangladesh capital of Dhaka, for example, the focus will be on energy efficiency.

On the other hand, Nepal's capital Kathmandu needs to implement a better traffic management system. This includes an increase in traffic lights and better enforcement of traffic regulations.

The ADB is a non-profit lender based in Manila. It provides loans for infrastructure development and poverty reduction programs across Asia.