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The Asian Development Bank has cleared a finance package to the tune of more than $200 million to improve the rural road network in Bangladesh.
“Rural roads are critical to supporting the country’s agriculture sector, which accounted for more than 15 percent of the country’s gross domestic product in 2015, and employs—directly or indirectly—about half of the workforce,” ADB’s Senior Rural Development Specialist Mr Lee Ming Tai said in a statement on Wednesday.
“ADB’s Rural Connectivity Improvement Project will support the government’s current Seventh Five Year Plan, which focuses on boosting rural incomes as well as agriculture’s contribution to economic development.”
About 80 percent of the country’s population lives in rural areas and depends on agriculture for its livelihood. But the sector is held back by several major constraints, including insufficient rural transport, inadequate market infrastructure, and more intense floods and cyclones related to climate change, according to the statement, the ADB said.
Only about 40 percent of the rural population has access to all-weather roads, and these roads make up only 28 percent of the total length of rural roads in the country.
Guided by the Seventh Five Year Plan, the government has embarked on an effort to improve the country’s rural road network, aiming to increase the percentage of rural roads classified as good during the period of the Five Year Plan from 43 percent in 2016 to 80 percent in 2020.
ADB’s project will support this by improving about 1,700 kilometres of rural roads to all-weather standards in 34 districts. Selection of roads takes into consideration factors such as population size, agricultural potential, the number of farms and commercial establishments, and economic potential. A particular priority is those roads damaged by flash floods in 2017.
The roads will be designed with safety features, including signage, guard posts, and speed breakers. They will also adopt climate resilient designs incorporating features such as elevated paving, drainage, road foundations, and earthworks to significantly reduce maintenance. The roads will be covered under contractual maintenance for 5 years after the date of construction on a pilot basis.
The project will provide training to the Local Government Engineering Department on road and financial management, road safety, climate resilient design and construction, improving road users’ awareness, and enhancing women’s skills on road construction and maintenance. An ADB technical assistance grant of $1 million will support these activities. More than 2,400 women were consulted in the project area during project design and they overall appreciated that it will give them more access to economic opportunities and services.
Further, the rural road master plan will be upgraded using a geographic information system that identifies agricultural value chains, road conditions, and mechanisms for allocating priorities. This will help optimize the use of available resources for effective rural road network planning and improvement.
The total cost of the project, which is due for completion in November 2023, is $285.31 million. ADB will provide a concessional loan of $100 million and a regular loan of $100 million. The government will provide the remaining $85.31 million.