The Asian Development Bank (ADB) will provide US$ 200 million in loans to help improve the rural road network in Bangladesh.
An agreement was signed between the government and the Manila-based lender in this connection on Sunday, according to a statement.
Secretary to the state-run Economic Relations Division (ERD) Monowar Ahmed and country director of the ADB in Bangladesh Manmohan Parkash signed the agreement on behalf of their respective sides.
"The assistance supports the government's priority of delivering urban services in rural areas by increasing connectivity, providing greater access to social services and markets, and promoting the agriculture sector, benefiting over 51.5 million people," the ADB said, quoting Mr. Parkash.
"It will also improve transport efficiency, generate 3.13 million person-days employment, introduce high-level technology to enhance road master planning, and create road safety awareness among rural population," he said.
The assistance aims to support the government's Rural Connectivity Improvement Project (RCIP) to upgrade about 1,700 kilometres of rural roads to all-weather standards in 34 districts located in five divisions, according to the ADB.
The project will also improve the capacity of the rural infrastructure agency for rural road development; and enhance rural road master planning to enable the selection of priority rural roads for the improvement, using a geographic information system (GIS) covering the entire country, it noted.
The GIS technology will help identify agricultural value chains, road conditions, and mechanisms for allocating priorities, optimising the use of available resources for effective rural road network planning and improvement.
The roads will be designed with safety features, including signage, guard posts, and speed breakers, the Bank said, adding they will also adopt climate resilient designs incorporating features such as elevated paving, drainage, road foundations, and earthwork to significantly reduce maintenance.
The roads will be covered under contractual maintenance for five years after the date of construction on a pilot basis.
The selection of roads takes into consideration factors such as population size, agricultural potential, the number of farms and commercial establishments, and economic potential. The project also prioritises repair of roads damaged by flashfloods in 2017, according to the ADB statement.
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, it added.
An ADB technical assistance of $1.0 million will support these activities.
Over 2,400 women were consulted in the project area during project design and they appreciated that it will give them more access to economic opportunities and services.
Only about 40 per cent of the rural population in Bangladesh has access to all-weather roads, and these roads make up only 28 per cent 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 from 43 per cent in 2016 to 80 per cent in 2020.
The total cost of the project, which is due for completion in November 2023, is $ 285.31 million.
The 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.
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