Mountainous provinces in the north are still suffering from inadequate roading, despite significant financial investment in recent years.

Vietnam Bridge and Road Science and Technology Association statistics show ground transportation in northern mountainous provinces covers an area of 59,400km, including nearly 49,200km of rural roads.

In recent years, at least 3,700 out of 4,300km of highway roads have been upgraded and revamped and hundreds of villages have been connected to towns.

By the end of last year, Yen Bai had invested more than 2.8trillion VND (134.4 million USD) for rural transportation, improving 143km of highway roads, building and upgrading 148km at the provincial level and adding more than 1,500km to villages, wards and hamlets.

Lao Cai province had invested more than 3.3 trillion VNDVND(158.4 million USD). Now 101 villages in the provinces have accessible roads to towns.

Nevertheless, most roads in these provinces, especially those that serve highland villages, are in poor conditions and the percentage of villages with concrete roads is low, while the lack of funding for maintenance has led to quick degradation.

Nguyen The Ha, deputy chairman of Ba Vi district People's Committee in Ha Noi, said most villages in the areas could not afford the funds required for maintaining and upgrading their roads.

"Only people who travel on those deteriorating roads with their countless numbers of pot-holes can understand the suffering of local residents on a daily basis," Ha said.

Many provinces had failed to develop a comprehensive zoning plan for rural transportation or to manage funds effectively, or they lacked staff at a local level to manage the maintenance. Also, concrete roads were difficult to build in a mountainous terrain.

In May, the Government approved a list of rural transport projects – with 80 million USD borrowing from the Asian Development Bank – for six provinces: Cao Bang, Bac Kan, Ha Giang, Tuyen Quang, Yen Bai and Lao Cai. The first phase, valued at 109.6 million USD, would upgrade more than 300km of roads over the next five years.

The Ministry of Transport recently approved the national strategic plan to develop Vietnam's rural transportation until 2020, with vision until 2030. Under the plan, by 2015, all villages nation-wide will have a road that lead to their centres, at least 70 percent of these roads will be of concrete, and all makeshift bridges will be eliminated.

The plan also suggest allocating a fund for maintaining all district roads and at least half of the village roads. Funding will be drawn from sources such as government bonds, Government budget, foreign investment and contributions from the community. Experts agree that developing rural transportation is critical for the socio-economic development and poverty reduction in these provinces./.