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 3,000 km of rural roads, built or improved more than 120 growth market centers, and more than 30 jetties;
- It created over 50,000 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 IDA credit of $190 million. At the request of the Government of Bangladesh, an additional $20 million was provided as additional financing in 2008 for flood rehabilitation works and a further $7 million savings from the main project was also channeled for flood rehabilitation in 16 districts.
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 closed on June 30, 2012. The $302 million Second Rural Transport Improvement Project (RTIP II) became effective on October 2012. The follow-on project will help to maintain and improve around 5,250 km of union parishad and upazilla roads in 26 districts. The second RTIP will benefit approximately 22 million people living near roads and waterways that will be rehabilitated and maintained under the project.