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New Delhi : The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Government of India on September 9, 2019, signed a $200 million loan to upgrade rural roads to all-weather standards in 34 districts of Maharashtra State to improve road safety and better connect rural areas with markets and services.

The signatories to the loan agreement for the Maharashtra Rural Connectivity Improvement Project were Sameer Kumar Khare, Additional Secretary (Fund Bank and ADB), Department of Economic Affairs in the Ministry of Finance, on behalf of the Government of India, and Sabyasachi Mitra, Deputy Country Director of ADB’s India Resident Mission, who signed for ADB. The project agreement was signed by Walter D’mello, Under Secretary, Finance Department, and Pravin Kide, Secretary, Mukhya Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, and chief executive officer (CEO), Maharashtra Rural Road Development Association (MRRDA).

“Improving rural connectivity is one of the key priorities of the Government of India, which will help enhance rural livelihoods and alleviate poverty among remote rural communities in project districts,” said Khare after signing the loan agreement. “Enhanced road connectivity and better access to markets will help the farmers increase agricultural productivity and incomes,” he said.

“The project will improve the condition of about 2,100 kms of rural roads to all-weather standards with climate resilience and safety features, connecting rural communities with productive agricultural areas and socioeconomic centers,” said Mitra. “Provision of contractual maintenance for 5 years following construction has also been provided under the project,” he said.

Maharashtra has an extensive road network with rural roads making up two thirds of the network. But more than half of these rural roads are unsealed, making them unsuitable for motorised traffic and impassable during the rainy season. Road safety has been a growing concern with the state accounting for over 8% of all fatal road accidents in India, according to a PIB release.

Accompanying the loan is a technical assistance grant of $1 million for institutional strengthening of the MRRDA in areas such as road asset management, road safety, climate-resilient design and construction and web-based real-time project monitoring. Outreach for road users will be carried out in the state to build awareness about road safety, gender issues including human trafficking, and enhancing women’s road construction and maintenance skills.

ADB is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty. Established in 1966, it is owned by 68 members—49 from the region. In 2018, it made commitments of new loans and grants amounting to $21.6 billion.

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