Upgrade loan for N-E roads

ADB sanctions $200m for six states

Relief route: A bus mired in a muddy road in Tinsukia. File picture
Guwahati, July 23 : The Asian Development Bank today sanctioned a $200 million loan for upgrade of roads in six states of the Northeast.
The bank’s board of directors cleared the loan — the biggest external assistance package till date for the region’s road sector — in Manila today.
The funds, which will be released in two tranches, will help in the upgrade of 430 km of roads in six states — Ass-am, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Sikkim and Tripura.
The biggest loan till date was of $60 million by World Bank to Mizoram in 2002 with additional financing of $13 million provided last year.
An ADB communiqué issued today said the improvement work would include wid-ening sections of existing ro-ads, strengthening of paveme-nts, raising embankments and construction of permanent structures at river crossings.
Christened the North Eastern States Roads Investment Programme, it will target the secondary roads network and aims to improve the performance of the state roads sector in the region through project implementation and dedicated capacity building measures.
The bank, in its communiqué quoting Hideaki Iwasaki, a portfolio management specialist in ADB’s South Asia department, said more than 30 per cent of the population in these states lived below the poverty line and upgrade of these roads would help improve mobility and accessibility for many communities.
“Better roads in the region will also significantly improve the investment climate for the private sector, both domestic and foreign,” Iwasaki said.
The total cost of the investment programme is $298.2 million of which the bank will provide $ 200 million, with the Centre providing the rest.
The programme will help in improving the growth rate of traffic on the roads covered by the project and reduce travel time on the roads by 20 to 40 per cent.
The programme will also include capacity building measures for state public works departments to carry out effective planning and asset management along with introduction of modern road management practices.
The ministry of Development of North-eastern Region (DoNER), along with the state governments, will implement the programme, which is due for completion by the end of December 2016.
The first tranche of nearly $75 million will be used to fund upgrade over 200 km of roads in Assam, Meghalaya and Sikkim.
Once completed the roads will have to be maintained by state public works departments.
The Northeast has a 145,000km road network, comprising 35,000km of surfaced roads — mostly national highways, state highways, and district roads — and 110,000km of unpaved roads.
“With the limited exception of the highest class roads (mostly national highways, maintained by central organisations), the road network in the region is in extremely poor condition. Insufficient coverage, weak and rough pavement conditions, poor geometrics because of the hilly terrain, narrow pavements, submersible stretches, poor riding quality, weak, distressed and semi-permanent timber bridges characterise the state road network” the bank said in a report on the region’s roads.