The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has signed an agreement to provide a loan of $200m to Bangladesh to upgrade its rural road network.

The agreement was signed by Bangladesh Government’s Economic Relations Division (ERD) secretary Monowar Ahmed and ADB country director Manmohan Parkash.

Parkash said: “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.

“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.”

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The loan will be invested to support the government’s Rural Connectivity Improvement Project (RCIP). Under this, nearly 1,700km of rural roads will be upgraded to all-weather standards in 34 districts across five divisions.

“The assistance supports the government’s priority of delivering urban services in rural areas by increasing connectivity, benefiting over 51.5 million people.”

Slated to be completed by November 2023, the entire project will cost $285.31m. The government is funding $85.31m, while ADB is providing a concessional loan of $100m and a regular loan of $100m.

Upon completion, the project is expected to enhance the capacity of the rural infrastructure agency for road development. The project is also intended to improve the rural road masterplan through a geographic information system (GIS).

The GIS technology can help the government identify agricultural value chains, road conditions, and mechanisms. This will enable it to prioritise and optimise existing resources for better rural road network planning and improvement.

Roads will be designed with safety features such as signage, guard posts, and speed breakers.

The project will also focus on repairing roads damaged by flash floods in 2017.

According to ADB estimates, only 40% of the rural population in Bangladesh has access to all-weather roads. These represent only 28% of the country’s total length of rural roads.