$32m WB grant for rural sector

Himalayan News Service

Kathmandu, June 22:

The World Bank has approved a $ 32 million grant to finance essential road infrastructure in rural areas of Nepal.

According to the World Bank, with the approval of such a grant, the bank hopes to address one of the Nepal’s main constraints to economic growth and poverty reduction, poor access to markets and services needed by residents in remote, rural and hilly areas of the country.

An estimated 36 per cent of Nepal’s 24 million people live at least two hours walk from the nearest all-season road where public sector transport services may be available, says a press statement issued by the bank today.

The lack of access is more severe in hilly districts. At least fifteen of the seventy-five district headquarters are still not connected by road. Sixty per cent of the road network in the country and almost all rural roads are dry-season tracks that cannot be operated during the rainy season, says The World Bank.

“Access to services and economic opportunities have been among the top casualties of Nepal’s ongoing conflict, especially in the remote rural hinterlands,” Kenichi Ohashi, World Bank country director for Nepal was quoted as saying in the statement.

“The project takes the conflict into account and, by design, intends to build partnership and mobilise communities in the planning, implementation and monitoring of projects that best serve their needs.”

Experience from other IDA-finance and donor supported projects suggests that project implementation progress is possible if the following conditions are met: the project design is flexible enough to allow project works to move between districts or project areas within a district; community participation is fostered during project planning, implementation and monitoring through appropriate social mobilization; civil works do not require blasting operations to excavate rocks and local NGOs are engaged to undertake situation assessments in project districts, develop communications strategies and outreach campaigns, and provide implementation support.

Nepal’s economic and social development is inextricably linked to accessibility

to markets and services, Binyam Reja, a transport economist with the World Bank was quoted as saying in the press statement.

Agriculture is the mainstay of the Nepali economy and accounts for 85 per cent of employment. One of the major constraints hampering the development of the sector is the low-level of access to markets and services due to poor road infrastructure in remote areas. “Various socio-economic surveys in Nepal also show that children in remote districts are more likely to be malnourished, die before they reach five years of age, and less likely to attend school than children living in districts that are more accessible, says the statement.

The World Bank says that the Rural Access Improvement and Decentralisation Project (RAIDP) aims to generate a 20 per cent increase in motorised and non-motorised trips by beneficiaries to key social and economic centers and reduce their travel time by 20 per cent, says the statement.

The project, according to the World Bank, is to be implemented in 20 decentralised districts across the country through two components such as rural transport infrastructure improvement in participating districts and capacity building and advisory services to the department of local infrastructure and agricultural roads and participating district development committees.