The World Bank has agreed to finance rural communication development so that people can effectively avail the benefits of the Padma Bridge, although it had earlier withdrawn its loan for the bridge construction over allegations of graft.
The government and the WB jointly initiated a multi-phased $1.4 billion 10-year programme to upgrade road communications and other infrastructures in the country's western and southwestern regions.
"The Padma Bridge is going to open a new horizon of economic potential for Bangladesh. In this context, a programme has been adopted by the Government of Bangladesh and the World Bank for the period of 2020-2030 to upgrade rural communication to facilitate and ensure overall socio-economic development," said a press release of the government's Economic Relations Division (ERD).
"Under the programme, a 260-kilometer national highway from Hatikumrul, Sirajganj to Bhomra land port will be upgraded from two lanes to four lanes with a service lane by the RHD [the Road and Highways Department)," said the press release yesterday.
Besides, the upgrading of logistics infrastructure of selected markets, growth centres, connected road networks for agriculture value chains and associated amenities will be done by the Government Engineering Department," the press release added.
As part of implementation of the programme, the government yesterday signed a $500 million financing agreement to implement a project titled "Western Economic Corridor and Regional Enhancement Program (WeCARE) Phase-I: Rural Connectivity, Market and Logistic Infrastructure Improvement Project (RCMLIIP)."
The project, the first of a multi-phased $1.4 billion 10-year programme, aims to upgrade the existing 110km two-lane Bhomra-Satkhira-Navaron and Jashore-Jhenaidah roads, said a press release of the World Bank.
In the current phase, the project will help upgrade the 48km two-lane Jashore-Jhenaidah road to a modern four-lane highway, it said.
Besides, the project will also help revitalise about 600km connecting rural roads, develop existing rural markets or build new ones. It will also set up fiber-optic cables along the highway to ensure fast and reliable internet service, the WB press release added.
The project will be implemented by the Road Transport and Highways Division (RTHD) and Local Government Division (LGD), said ERD.
The project was approved by the World Bank Board on June 23 last year and the government's Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) on November 24. The closing date of this project is December 31, 2026.
Yesterday, ERD Secretary Fatima Yasmin and the World Bank's Dhaka office Country Director Mercy Miyang Tembon signed the agreement on behalf of their respective sides.
In the signing ceremony that was held at the ERD office, Fatima Yasmin said, "Improvement in the logistics and transport in the western districts will further help accelerate economic growth and development for the entire country."
Addressing the function, Mercy Miyang Tembon said, "With better connectivity and logistics, farmers will be able to reach new and existing markets faster while spending less. It will also lower the loss from spoilage of perishable goods." The World Bank press release cited the comments of the two officials.
Earlier in 2012, the World Bank withdrew its $1.2 billion loan for the construction of Padma Bridge over allegations of corruption conspiracies. The government refutes the allegations and is building the bridge without support from the WB.