Despite the large investments that were made to develop the country’s road network, the condition of rural roads remained far from satisfactory. The quality, construction, and carrying capacity of part of the secondary and tertiary road network remained poor. In 2000, only 37 percent of the population lived within 2 km of an all-season road. About 13, 000 km of Upazila Roads (out of 36,500 km) were all-weather standard and most of the Union Roads (another category of rural roads) remained unpaved. Hence large portions of the secondary and tertiary road network remained impassable during the rainy season.
The Bangladesh Rural Transport Improvement Project was designed to address the need to improve the sustainability, quality, and capacity of rural transport and trade infrastructure in a cost-effective and integrated manner. The project design also took into account the lessons learned and the successful implementation experience of the two previous IDA funded projects. This project, however, focused on a bigger project impact area by improving both the implementing agency and selected local government institutions’ capacity to manage rural transport infrastructure more effectively. It also included measures to promote integration and consolidation of the knowledge and experiences of other development partners operating in the sector.
The Bangladesh Rural Transport Improvement Project focused on providing rural communities with improved access to social services and economic opportunity, and enhanced the capacity of relevant government institutions to better manage rural transport infrastructure. It has helped to support improvement in several key outcomes:
- The project maintained and improved more than 2,500 km of rural roads, built or improved more than 110 growth market centers, and 30 jetties;
- It created over 47,000 person years of employment in the project area;
- And the project reduced travel times for motorized vehicles by 58 percent during the dry season and 65 percent during monsoon season, while non-motorized vehicles had their travel times cut by 53 percent and 61 percent respectively.
The Bangladesh Rural Transport Improvement Project started in June 2003 with an original credit of US$190 million. At the request of the Government of Bangladesh, an additional US$20 million was provided as additional financing in 2008 for flood rehabilitation works.
There is a strong partnership among the key development partners (the Asian Development Bank and Japan International Cooperation Agency) in Bangladesh’s rural transport sector. The Local Consultative Group for Transport, currently headed by the Japan International Cooperation Agency, meets periodically and its member organizations provide updates on their respective work in the sector.
Toward the Future
The project closes June 30, 2012, and a second phase will go to the World Bank Board in May 2012. It will become effective by August 2012, leaving only a small gap in between the two projects, ensuring continuity. The next phase of the Bangladesh Rural Transport Improvement Project will build up on the lessons learnt from the first effort but will cover more districts of Bangladesh and pilot new approaches, such as Performance Based Maintenance Contracting. The IDA contribution for the next installment of the project is US$300 million, covering a period up to December 2017.