Infrastructure in Kiribati: One Road's Impact on Half the Population

Kiribati is home to 108,000 residents, yet 50,000 depend on the country’s one main road—the South Tarawa Road. Tarawa is the densely populated capital of Kiribati, and the South Tarawa Road is the only main road in South Tarawa.

More than half of Kiribati’s population relies on the South Tarawa Road to connect the western Betio seaport, the eastern international airport and Bonriki. The road has not been rehabilitated since the 1970s, making it a dangerous route for travelers.

Heavy rain and increased traffic have caused large potholes to form, and travel along the road becomes particularly slow, uncomfortable and dangerous after rain. Tarawa has seen an increase in upper respiratory illnesses due to the excessive dust that collects along the road during Kiribati’s dry season.

The government has recognized the need to improve infrastructure in Kiribati by establishing the Kiribati Road Rehabilitation Project. The project involves the cooperation of Kiribati’s government, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and the Australian government.

The Kiribati Road Rehabilitation Project consists of three components:

  1. Infrastructure Improvements
    Includes civil works activities to be done on the South Tarawa Road and the reconstruction and rehabilitation of paved roads.
  2. Road Sector Reform
    Includes maintenance of activities to strengthen the road sector and sustainable main road infrastructure in Kiribati.
  3. Project Support
    Includes establishment of a project management team, associated operating costs, a valuation specialist and project account audits.

The project has rehabilitated over 32 kilometers of the South Tarawa Road and upgraded six kilometers of secondary roads. Improved drainage, solar street lighting and road signage have been added to the road. Footpaths and pavement markings have also been installed to increase pedestrian safety.

Improved road infrastructure in Kiribati increases safety and reduces costs for drivers and pedestrians. Kiribati’s government aims to ensure that the road will last by supporting routine maintenance through local contractors. The local contractors will be trained to clean the drainage system, clear the roadway, fill potholes on unsealed roads, report potholes on sealed roads and maintain signage.

The Kiribati Road Rehabilitation Project is the largest economic infrastructure investment in the country since World War II. Its projected completion date is June 30, 2018. The completion of the upgrades will go a long way towards improving the daily lives of Kiribati’s people.

– Carolyn Gibson

Photo: Flickr