Staff Correspondent ;
Dhaka – The World has approved 500 million dollars to help improve road connectivity in four south-western districts of Bangladesh, the bank said in a statement on Wednesday.
The fund is part of the bank’s multi-phased 1.4 billion dollars project of Western Economic Corridor and Regional Enhancement (WeCARE), which will upgrade the existing 110 KM two-lane highway—Bhomra-Satkhira-Navaron and Jashore-Jhenaidah—to a safer and climate-resilient four-lane highway.
It will support the government’s plan of developing a 260-km economic corridor in the western part and benefit over 20 million people, according to the bank statement.
The first phase of the program will upgrade 48 kilometers of the N7 highway between Jashore and Jhenaidah and improve about 600km connecting rural roads and 32 rural markets/growth centers to stimulate the local economy.
To improve road safety, the highway will have additional lanes for slow-moving vehicles and a median safety barrier to separate oncoming traffic.
“The western region of Bangladesh is endowed with many agricultural and natural produce and holds great potential of becoming a gateway for regional and international trade,” said Mercy Tembon, World Bank Country Director for Bangladesh and Bhutan.
“This project will unlock the region’s potential by stimulating the economy of districts, linking farms to markets, connecting Dhaka with the western region as well as with neighboring countries, thus enhancing trade, transit and logistics along the corridor,” Tembon added.
The project will also install fiber optic cables along the highway to provide reliable and affordable internet access, which will be critical for emergency responses and business continuities in crises similar to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The COVID 19 pandemic has hit the poorest hard with the loss of jobs and income.
The project will support immediate social protection and livelihoods to the vulnerable rural people by engaging them in labor-intensive civil works.
Even in the post Covid-19 period, the project will create jobs for the local communities through civil works for the national highway and connecting rural roads and markets, said Rajesh Rohatgi, World Bank Senior Transport Specialist and Project Task Team Leader.
“It will also support the country’s two key transport agencies—Roads and Highway Division and Local Government Engineering Department—to enhance emergency preparedness for any future pandemic or crisis.”