The government has signed a $200 million loan agreement with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and to “upgrade” rural roads to all-weather standards in 34 districts of Maharashtra, the finance ministry said.
“The project will improve the condition of about 2,100 kilometers of rural roads to all-weather standards, with climate resilience and safety features, connecting rural communities with productive agricultural areas and socioeconomic centers,” it said in a statement quoting Sabyasachi Mitra, deputy country director, ADB -India Resident Mission.
While Mitra signed the agreement on behalf of ADB, Sameer Kumar Khare, additional secretary, the department of economic affairs (DEA) signed for the union government.
“Improving rural connectivity is one of the key priorities of the Government of India, which will help enhance rural livelihoods and alleviate poverty among remote rural communities in project districts,” said Khare after signing the loan agreement.
“Enhanced road connectivity and better access to markets will help the farmers increase agricultural productivity and incomes,” he said.
Provision of contractual maintenance for 5 years following construction has also been provided under the project, Mitra said.
Maharashtra has an extensive road network, with rural roads making up two thirds of the network. More than half of these rural roads are, however, unsealed, making them unsuitable for motorised traffic and impassable during the rainy season. Road safety has been a growing concern with the state accounting for over 8% of all fatal road accidents in India, the statement said.
Accompanying the loan is a technical assistance grant of $1 million for institutional strengthening of the Maharashtra Rural Road Development Association (MRRDA) in areas such as road asset management, road safety, climate-resilient design and construction and web-based real-time project monitoring, it said.
Outreach for road users will be carried out in the state to build awareness of road safety, gender issues, including human trafficking, and enhancing women’s road construction and maintenance skills, it added.
ADB is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty, the statement said.
Established in 1966, the bank is owned by 68 members. In 2018, it made commitments of new loans and grants amounting to $21.6 billion.