$198mn ADB loan for regional highway, land ports

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) will give US$ 198 million in loan to help upgrade a critical regional highway and two land ports in Bangladesh for boosting connectivity and trade across South Asia.The loan will be provided under an agreement signed here Wednesday for the South Asia Subregional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) Road Connectivity Project.

Economic Relations Division (ERD) Secretary Md Abul Kalam Azad and ADB Country Director M Teresa Kho signed the agreement for Bangladesh and ADB respectively at a ceremony at the ERD in city’s Sher-e-Bangla Nagar.

The Project will expand and improve a 70-kilometer section of the Dhaka-Northwest highways (Joydevpur-Chandra-Tangail-Elenga Road) – the second busiest arterial route in the country. The initiative will also upgrade land ports at Benapole and Burimari, which handle the bulk of goods transported between Bangladesh and India, and through India, with Bhutan and Nepal.

These upgrades will boost trade volumes, improve traffic flows and reduce the loss of perishable goods. Studies show upgrading regional highways in Bangladesh will support the movement of about 18 million tons of freight in Bhutan, India and Nepal, boosting intra-regional trade across South Asia.

“Upgrading this important section of the Dhaka-Northwest highways will give a big lift to both domestic and subregional trade, as well
as encouraging more domestic and foreign investment,” said ADB country director M Teresa Kho.

She also said that the project is an integral part of the SASEC program’s push to improve infrastructure and promote economic
cooperation in one of the world’s most densely populated areas.

The narrow two-lane Dhaka-Northwest highway currently suffers from serious congestion and high accident rates. Expanding the route to four lanes, and introducing a separate lane for slow-moving vehicles will help ease bottlenecks, reduce crashes, and provide the nearly seven million people living in the area with new business opportunities and better access to markets, schools and other social services.

As a public-private partnership initiative, a five-year performance-based contract to maintain the road will be included in
works contracts, which also target up to 50 percent of the jobs provided for women. The project also includes a technical assistance
grant of $1.5 million equivalent, financed from the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction, to modernize and improve the Roads and Highways Department.

The project will be carried out over five years and is scheduled for completion by December 2017.

The OPEC Fund for International Development and the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development will each provide cofinancing loans of $30 million.

The SASEC program is an initiative of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, and Nepal to build closer links that will spur growth and development
across the sub-region. Its work covers activities in many sectors including transport, trade, energy, the private sector, tourism and
the environment.

ADB provides the program with a variety of support, including project financing, technical assistance, and advice. (Source: bdnews24.com)

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