ADB provides $400m to upgrade international road corridor

The Asian Development Bank yesterday signed an agreement with Bangladesh to provide EUR360 million, or £400 million, to help upgrade the Dhaka-Northwest international trade corridor. The project is part of a priority international transport corridor that connects Bangladesh with Bhutan, India, and Nepal, said Manmohan Parkash, country director of the Manila-based multilateral lender, in a press release. The assistance forms the second tranche of £1.2 billion ADB loans for the second South Asia Sub-regional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) Dhaka - Northwest Corridor Road Project.

"The project will further strengthen regional connectivity and boost trade along the second busiest road artery in the country. When completed, it will reduce transport costs, travel time, vehicle emission, congestion and accidents," Parkash added. It will contribute to achieving Bangladesh's goal of an efficient and modern transport system by turning the 190-km section from Elenga through Hatikumrul to Rangpur into four lanes from two-lane carriageways.

It will improve road safety and adopt gender-responsive features by including footbridges, footpaths and two dedicated lanes for slow-moving traffic to make women's travel safer, the ADB said. Studies show that women particularly use the route on foot or slow-moving vehicles such as rickshaws. Road operation and management in the Roads and Highway Department will also be strengthened and climate-resilient design features will be adopted to construct the road, the press release said. 

The loan will have a 25-year term, including a grace period of five years. The ADB has been supporting Bangladesh in improving the Dhaka-Northwest road corridor since approval of the landmark Jamuna Bridge Project in 1994. The 70km Joydevpur-Elenga section of the road was improved under the SASEC Road Connectivity Project.

Among the subregional corridors, the government considers the Dhaka-Northwest international trade corridor on South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation highways 4 and 8 as top priorities. The corridor is the second busiest artery in Bangladesh after the Dhaka-Chattogram road. At the northwestern end of the corridor is the Burimari Land Port, which is managed by the Bangladesh Land Port Authority and provides a gateway to Bhutan through India.

Improving the transport infrastructure is expected to significantly increase trade in the land port. In 2017, the lender gave £300 million in the first tranche. The third tranche and fourth and final tranche will be released in December 2021 and 2023 respectively.

The total cost of the project is £1.67 billion, of which the government will meet £472.6 million. Work will be carried out over 10 years to 2026. Transport infrastructure is the centerpiece of the ADB-supported SASEC programme, which promotes regional prosperity.

Since 2001, SASEC members signed and implemented 55 ADB-financed projects with a regional dimension worth more than £12.5 billion, including 36 projects worth £10.23 billion in the transport sector. The SASEC Operational Plan, 2016-2025 identified 128 priority regional cooperation and integration transport projects worth about £63 billion, of which 35 are in Bangladesh. Road travel accounts for 70 per cent of all passenger traffic and 60 per cent of freight in Bangladesh, as traffic grows at a rate of 8 per cent a year.

Fatima Yasmin, secretary of the Economic Relations Division, and Parkash inked the loan agreement at a ceremony in Dhaka yesterday.   

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