World Bank approves $452 mn for Assam to improve connectivity in rural areas

New Delhi: The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors on Saturday announced a new programme of $452 million to support Assam to improve connectivity for over 1.8 million people living in rural areas, especially during extreme weather.

Assam is the largest state in northeast India and the gateway to Southeast Asia and South Asian markets. With its abundant natural resources like tea and spices, Assam has the potential to leapfrog to the next level of competitiveness in the global value chain.

However, it is frequently exposed to climate events such as floods, cyclones, and landslides. Currently, smallholder farmer communities and tribal settlements are not well connected to all-season bridges and roads, and this affects their lives and livelihoods.

The $452 million Assam Resilient Rural Bridges Programme aims to strengthen the resilience and management of roads and bridges to help people living in 1,739 villages gain round-the-year access to wholesale markets, schools, hospitals, and places of work.

As a result of better connectivity, savings of more than $82 million within the next six years are expected against the earlier costs for people to journey to these places.

The Programme will also connect almost 633,000 women-led textile and handicraft producers living within two km of roads or collection points. Electronic vehicles and logistics hubs set up through the Programme will help gain access to regional markets with reduced emissions.

“The Programme will support the government of Assam to attract private investment for quality jobs, increase farmers’ incomes and enhance value chains, thus promoting inclusive and diversified growth in the rural sector,” said Auguste Tano Kouame, the World Bank’s Country Director for India.

The Programme will help to strengthen the Assam Public Works Roads Department’s financial and procurement processes using the state’s own systems and provide training to improve disaster risk management.

“In addition, it will help increase women’s participation by almost 20 per cent in jobs related to bridge design, construction and maintenance, as well as operating digital platforms at rural transportation hubs,” said Tesfamichael Mitiku, Anup Karanth, and B.K.M. Ashraful Islam, the Task Team Leaders for the Programme.

The $452 million Programme loan from the International Bank of Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) will use the financing instruments of Program-for-Results and Investment Project Financing to link disbursement of funds directly to the achievement of results while providing technical assistance.

The programme loan has a maturity of 19 years with a grace period of 4.5 years.

IANS

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