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April 11, 2008

LAOS/TRANSPORT
New highway links Southeast Asia and China

The landlocked Laos has inaugurated a new highway that will allow a north-south land route connecting Southeast Asia and China to operate year-round, the Asian Development Bank said.

The opening of Route 3 fills in the last stretch of road for what is supposed to be an all-weather route that at its full length connects Singapore to Beijing. The highway links China's Yunnan province with northern Thailand via Laos.

The new all-weather highway is expected to significantly boost tourism and trade through the region, which has already benefitted from the improved cooperation among the group of nations.

Critics, however, have warned the pace of development of a highway linking Singapore and Beijing is accelerating the spread of disease and environmental damage.

Raekwon Chung, from the United Nations, has told Radio Australia's Connect Asia program there needs to be an environmental balance to the regions growth.


"Because the current development pattern is grow first, clean up later... so everybody is obsessed about how much production you increase every year," he said.

John Cooney, from the Asian Development Bank, disagrees, saying the six national leaders have agreed to jointly tackle health risks, human and drug trafficking, and growing environmental threats.



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