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Rethinking Roads' Relationship with Flood Prevention and Water Supply

It's time to rethink roads. In the vital fields of flood prevention and water supply, they offer incredible potential to enhance and enrich the lives of some of the world's poorest people. Dr Frank van Steenbergen of the Roads for Water consortium is helping to drive this remarkable revolution.

Heading north from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia's capital, you need to travel over 400 miles along Highway 1 to reach Tigray province. Home to some wondrous natural beauty and an intense, often troubled history, poverty is a constant factor here. Over 80 per cent of the population are farmers, cultivating crops and rearing livestock in some of the toughest, most thankless conditions anywhere on Earth, with water a precious resource and climate change set to present severe challenges in the years and decades ahead.

Like much of Sub-Saharan Africa, roads are a lifeline in Tigray - arteries of hope and potential prosperity that provide better access to jobs, markets and healthcare and education services. Indeed, across Sub-Saharan Africa as a whole, the building of roads represents one of the biggest public investments and a staggering 5·5 million kilometres have been constructed to date. The paradox is, for all the many benefits they bring, collateral damage caused by the process can do serious harm to local communities.

Rod Waddington

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