Prime Minister Hon Manasseh Sogavare together with the Minister for Infrastructure Development, Hon Jimmy Lusibaea and the Japanese Ambassador to Solomon Islands, His Excellency Kenichi Kimiya today broke ground on the much- awaited SBD$213-Million Kukum Highway Upgrading Project.
In his speech marking this historic occasion, an elated Prime Minister Sogavare said, “We have arrived at the moment we have been waiting for. Today marks another important landmark in the history of infrastructure development in Solomon Islands, in particular our national capital.
“This groundbreaking ceremony marks the end of the project preparatory phase and the beginning of the construction phase for Kukum Highway Upgrading Project and I’m delighted to be part of this very important occasion.”
He said the project addresses one of the very high priority transport infrastructures in Solomon Islands because of its importance in connecting the various important services and operations in and outside of Honiara City.
The Prime Minister said the traffic congestions and the poor road conditions encountered daily has been blamed for the lateness by most employees in the capital and also their work output.
“The Kukum Highway has become one of the most important infrastructures that has through the years been supporting economic investments in and around Honiara City as well as further west and east of the city.
“In the absence of any alternative routes, every vehicle ends up on this highway when doing business or just for a drive. Thus, Honiara City has been experiencing traffic congestion that increasingly worsens.”
However, Prime Minister Sogavare said there is hope on the horizon to address the many issues related to traffic congestion and poor road conditions now with the entry of the project into the construction phase and on this note commended the ‘Government and People’ of Japan for he labeled as a ‘generous grant assistance.’
Prime Minister Sogavare also referred to the project as a milestone in Solomon Islands diplomatic relations with Japan, which spanned decades since the former attained nationhood in 1978.
He said Solomon Islands benefitted tremendously from this relationship and on that note assured Japan of Solomon Islands commitment to making this relationship even more meaningful for the long-term benefit of both countries.
The Prime Minister said he would have the opportunity to personally convey Solomon Islands gratitude for Japan’s continued assistance to Solomon Islands infrastructure sector, commitment to strengthen the Solomon Islands-Japan relations as well as support for the Participation of Japan in pursuit of global agendas at the margin of the 71st United Nations General Assembly next week.
Meanwhile, the Japanese Ambassador in his brief remarks at the occasion said the Japanese Government is pleased to be given the chance to cooperate with the Government of Solomon Islands on such important undertaking.
He said the Kukum Highway Improvement Project could become a ‘symbolic token of friendship’ between Solomon Islands and Japan.
Ambassador Kimiya said the components of the Kukum Highway Improvement Project are the construction of two bridges over the Mataniko River and expansion of the Kukum Highway to reduce the worsening traffic congestion in the capital and enhance traffic safety for all road users.
Ambassador Kimiya said he is well aware of the public expectation on this project and on this note drew attention to the fact that those who have been involved in the infrastructure development of Solomon Islands faced challenges in realising infrastructure projects as planned due to various obstacles including land issues and the Japanese Government was no exception in its efforts to implement this road project.
The Ambassador said he hopes the circumstances surrounding land issues would be improved on so that Solomon Islands could pursue its development agendas more effectively.
He also used the occasion to call for public understanding and cooperation during the Kukum Highway Improvement Project construction work, should it cause any inconvenience.
The grand occasion held at the proposed Kukum Highway Upgrading Project roundabout was well attended by Government Ministers and officials, Heads of Foreign Missions in Solomon Islands including the Japanese Embassy, officials from the Japanese International Cooperation Agency as well as Japanese road construction workers engaged in the multi-million dollar road improvement project. The proposed roundabout is located across the main road from the current Solomon Islands Water Authority headquarters.