Direct employment of about 20 million person days which is equivalent to 10,000 full-time jobs for the six-year duration of the Project
WASHINGTON, March 13, 2012 - The World Bank today approved a US$320 million loan to the Assam State Roads Project to improve and effectively manage its state road network.
Assam is one of the lower income states of India, situated in its remotely located North East region. Its per capita income at US$604 is about 40 percent below the national average of US$1033. The State's high potential in the areas of agriculture, hydropower, tourism, and forestry sectors remains largely untapped due to its inadequate road infrastructure and market access.
The focus of this Project is on improving 500 km of priority sections of the state highways; modernizing the Public Works Roads Department (PWRD) and enhancing its performance; and on road safety management. New technologies for promoting cost effective, modern, climate resilient, and environment friendly road construction works will be demonstrated under the Project.
“The Project is designed to enhance the effectiveness of World Bank financing by complementing traditional support for road investment with technical and knowledge support from the Bank,” said Mr. Venu Rajamony, Joint Secretary in the Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, Government of India. “The aim is to transform the Public Works Road Department (PWRD) into a modern road agency by supporting good practices, strategic planning, and project and asset management. It will help the Government of Assam (GOA) to sustain its large road network being developed under various programs and reduce the maintenance backlog through additional resources which will start flowing once the Road Maintenance Fund, being set up under this Project, is operationalized,” he added.
Due to years of inadequate investment and lack of maintenance, about 60 percent of the state road network is in poor condition. Most roads have poor riding quality, weak pavements, and inadequate capacity. Only about four percent of the secondary road network (state highways and major district roads) is double-laned and 20 percent are still unpaved. Farmers in Assam are unable to access major markets due to the poor condition of secondary roads leading to those markets. Similarly, the road users within the area of influence of the improved National Highway (NH) network, who are first required to travel on secondary roads to access the improved NH network, are also affected.
“A good road network for Assam, considered to be the `gateway to the landlocked North East region’, can play a significant strategic role for the integration of the lagging North East region with the country’s economy,” said Mr. Roberto Zagha, World Bank Country Director for India. “As is evident from other road projects in India, road improvements lead to many benefits including reduction of travel costs and time, creation of additional employment opportunities, increase in agricultural production and income, support for industrial growth, improved access to markets, health and educational services, and better prices for agricultural produce, as well as integration of the scattered population in the state’s economy. Both the Assam Development Strategy and the North-East Region Vision 2020 also underscore the need to improve road infrastructure and connectivity to achieve their objectives of poverty reduction and promotion of economic growth,” he added.
However, in order to achieve this vision, the road safety situation remains a challenge in Assam, as elsewhere in India. According to official statistics, Assam has a higher percentage of deaths due to unnatural causes than the rest of the country. In 2009, about 16 persons were killed per 10,000 vehicles in Assam as compared to the national average of 11. The Public Works Road Department (PWRD) recognizes the road safety challenges and is currently undertaking a road safety assessment of some 960 km of state road network with support from the World Bank Global Road Safety Facility (GRSF), whose findings and recommendations will be incorporated in this Project.
“The Project is taking an integrated approach to issues related to road upgradation, maintenance, modernization and safety management. The Government of Assam has also demonstrated a strong commitment to modernize its road sector. It recognizes the need to re-orient the PWRD from a primarily construction focus to a modern road agency with sound policies, planning, engineering practices, business processes, and asset management. These will now be taken up under the Road Sector Modernization Program to be supported under the Project,” said Ashok Kumar, the Project’s Task Team Leader and Senior Highway Engineer, World Bank.
The loan, from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), has a maturity of 18 years including a grace period of 5 years.