The World Bank on Tuesday said it had approved a US$1.5 billion loan to help India improve its rural roads, the latest effort to beef up the country’s infrastructure.
“Improving the access and quality of rural roads is critical to increas- ing growth and promoting development in lagging regions,” said the bank’s India director Roberto Zagha.
Although the Indian economy has grown apace in recent years, its infrastructure remains notoriously creaky.
The country has struggled to keep pace with massive population growth, while rugged terrain makes construction difficult in some areas.
Almost 40 per cent of Indians, or 300 million people, lack access to all-weather roads, according to the World Bank.
The project is expected to focus on the heavily populated states of Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan as well as the mountainous states of Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Meghalaya.
Jharkhand and Punjab will also be covered.
“Over the next five years, the project will aim to provide these states with an average connectivity of around 91 per cent by constructing
24,200 kilometres (15,037 miles)” of all-weather roads, benefiting 6.1 million people, the bank said.
“The project will also develop a system for maintaining these roads in good condition over the long term,” it added.
The loan will largely be interest free, with chunks due to be repaid in 35 and 18 years.