Environmental and Social Considerations
in the Development of the Greater
Mekong Subregion's Road Network
Robert J. Dobias
In 1992, a program of cooperation was initiated among the six countries of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS): Cambodia, the Lao People's Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), Myanmar (also called Burma), Thailand, Vietnam, and Yunnan Province of the People's Republic of China (PRC). Referred to as the GMS Program, it aims to promote and support the double transition in the GMS countries from centrally planned to market economies and from agricultural to more diversified economies. The GMS Program is being supported by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), which houses the GMS secretariat, and by various bilateral and multilateral aid agencies.
Seven sectors have been targeted for cooperative activities, including the transport sector, which covers road, waterway, rail, and air transport. (The other sectors are energy, telecommunications, tourism, environment, human resource development, and trade and investment.) This chapter presents an overview of the environmental and socioeconomic setting in the GMS and summarizes the priority components of the GMS transport sector program as it relates to roads. We then discuss the environmental and social implications of road development generally, and the GMS road program specifically. We conclude by discussing ongoing and planned efforts to incorporate environmental and social concerns into road development in the GMS, and we offer ideas for improving the balance between road development and socioenvironmental priorities.