Expertise
Zahid Iqbal recently presented at the Blue Pacific Infrastructure Conference in Brisbane, Australia. This event was organized by the Australia Pacific Islands Business Council (APIBC). His presentation offered insights into the Sustainable Road Infrastructure Investment Project (SRIIP) in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM).

Situated amidst the vast Pacific Ocean, the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) is a diverse archipelago characterised by unique islands, each with its own distinct geographical, cultural, and environmental features. Navigating these distinctive traits and striving for a sustainable future, the country has embarked on a remarkable journey to revolutionise its road infrastructure.

 

SMEC’s commitment to sustainability resonates seamlessly with FSM’s vision for resilient infrastructure. As the project’s consultant for project prioritisation, readiness, and pilot-testing, SMEC’s expertise has become instrumental in advancing FSM’s transportation infrastructure.

 

Case study: Sustainable Road Infrastructure Investment Project (SRIIP)

Funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), SRIIP aims to revamp roads and bridge crossings in the FSM’s four distinct states: Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei, and Kosrae. The project has four key outputs:

  • Identify scope of sector policies, strategies, and investments
  • Prepare detailed engineering designs and tender documentation alongside contract and procurement strategy
  • Pilot innovative tools for road rehabilitation works in FSM
  • Build capacity of executing and implementing agencies and test implementation arrangements.

Diversity across FSM poses significant challenges, including differences in geography, culture, and language. Furthermore, the country lacks essential road infrastructure data and systems for planning and monitoring. However, these challenges also present opportunities to ensure inclusivity, environmental sensitivity, and infrastructure improvement in line with international standards.

 

SRIIP takes into account the Pacific Region’s vulnerability to climate change. A comprehensive approach has been adopted to identify trends, analyse impacts, and mitigate risks. Integration of climate change considerations into infrastructure development is a vital step towards building resilience in the country’s road network.

 

Robust social safeguards – including household surveys and public consultations – have been implemented to ensure that the project is inclusive and respectful of local communities. Gender action plans and stakeholder engagement mechanisms are being developed and will further underline the project’s commitment to social responsibility.

 

SMEC’s selection for the project highlights a crucial aspect of its approach. While SMEC did not submit the lowest-priced bid, it won the project with its significantly higher technical score. This quality-based outcome is consistent with the importance of prioritising quality in infrastructure development.

 

Challenges, innovations, and lessons learned

Geographical remoteness of FSM presents logistical challenges. Some examples are access to testing laboratories and transportation of equipment and materials. To overcome these hurdles, SMEC has undertaken comprehensive site surveys including geotechnical investigations and shipping these materials abroad to internationally accredited material testing facilities.

 

SMEC is also spearheading the introduction of innovative construction technologies including full-depth recycling (FDR), intelligent compaction (IC), and geocell reinforced concrete (GRC). This showcases SMEC’s dedication and commitment towards modernisation.

 

Among the myriad of challenges facing SRIIP, Ganir Bridge stands out as a significant test of engineering ingenuity. The bridge is being designed to accommodate larger vessels and to optimise water inflow for ecosystem stimulation.

 

Coastal engineers and hydrologists are playing pivotal roles, addressing wave analysis and fresh/sea water interaction. A significant challenge has been ensuring resilience to cyclones and king tides, highlighting the importance of specialised expertise and innovation in crafting sustainable, adaptable infrastructure.

 

SRIIP’s success hinges on several critical lessons. These include fostering meaningful relationships with stakeholders, melding global expertise with local knowledge, embracing flexibility in response to evolving client expectations, and upholding trust and discipline among team members. These lessons serve as cornerstones of the project’s success and progress to date.

 

FSM’s ongoing journey towards sustainable road infrastructure development, in partnership with SMEC, epitomises the transformative potential of innovation, collaboration, and a resolute commitment to sustainability. As the country’s roads continue to evolve, SRIIP stands as a testament to the enduring promise of a brighter, more interconnected future for FSM. Through resilience, inclusivity, and a shared vision for sustainable development, FSM and SMEC are driving progress, one road at a time.