The Nepal Urban Governance and Infrastructure (NUGI) Project was jointly launched today by the Secretary of Ministry of Urban Development, Ramesh Prasad Singh, and Lada Strelkova, World Bank operations manager for Nepal, Maldives and Sri Lanka.

The four-year project is financed by the World Bank to promote sustainable urban development and to support post-COVID-19 economic recovery in strategic secondary cities. Aligned with Nepal's federalism principles and the National Urban Development Strategy, the $150 million project puts the municipalities at the forefront of project implementation with a focus on strengthening service delivery and institutional capacities in strategic secondary cities and supporting post-COV- ID-19 economic recovery through labour intensive public works.

"In the context of rapid urbanisation, federalism, and the pandemic, delivering better urban services and responding to the needs of the population are critical. Given the urgent needs, result-oriented implementation of the project is required at all levels of government," Singh has been quoted as saying in a media release.

According to him, the project complements the government's existing programmes and deepens the engagement on urban development through the establishment of dedicated funding for strategic urban infrastructure in the targeted cities.

The 17 project municipalities are located in two strategic urban clusters in the eastern region (Provinces 1 and 2) and western region (Gandaki and Lumbini Provinces). The selected municipalities are critical to Nepal's economic development and are centres for commercial and administrative activities in those regions.

The project will also support 12 additional municipalities across Nepal's seven provinces for labour intensive public works activities, as well as supporting four municipalities for capacity building.

Of the total credit, about 95 per cent is allocated to the local levels. "As part of the World Bank's COVID-19 response, the project will support over 20,000 of the most vulnerable and unemployed people at the local level to earn at least 50 days of wages through the creation of temporary employment opportunities in the maintenance and upgrading of public infrastructure," stated Faris Hadad-Zervos, World Bank country director for Nepal, Maldives and Sri Lanka.

"Working together with the government, development partners, and the private sector, the World Bank will aim to deliver results to strengthen federalism and capacity of the targeted municipalities to the benefit of the local population."

A version of this article appears in the print on January 28, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.