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26 Sep, 2014

$800 Million ADB Facility to Help Sri Lanka Upgrade 2,200 kms of Poor Rural Roads

Colombo, 25 September 2014 (ADB Media release) – The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved an $800 million loan facility to fund rural and national road upgrades in six provinces in Sri Lanka that will significantly improve access of remote communities to markets, services, and jobs.

“Providing all-weather road access to towns and villages in rural areas will bring greater development and prosperity that will underpin stronger economic growth in Sri Lanka in coming years and decades,” said Chen Chen, an ADB Senior Transport Specialist.

The Integrated Road Investment Program, or so-called “iRoad” in Sri Lanka, will upgrade about 2,200 kilometers of rural access roads, and rehabilitate and maintain about 400 kilometers of national roads under five projects in the Southern Province, Sabaragamuwa Province and the Kalutara District of Western Province, Central Province, North Central Province and the North Western province.

It will also provide training and support to help national, provincial, and local agencies manage the road network more effectively. The project is expected to be finished by mid 2024.

Sri Lanka has over 132,000 kilometers of roads and has made strong headway in expanding and improving trunk routes since 2007. However, progress on provincial and rural access roads has been slower and many are in poor condition.

The Sri Lanka government’s national strategy for 2010-2020 said poor quality infrastructure is a key constraint to its goal of rapid economic growth and lower poverty, and has estimated the cost of upgrading rural access routes at $1.8 billion. As well as ADB, the government has also asked the Japan International Cooperation Agency to finance road projects in other areas.

The $100 million first tranche of ADB financing is largely earmarked for road improvements in Southern Province, benefitting about 1.2 million people. Communities in the area have noted that poor road conditions have been a major obstacle to swift and safe travel.

The project will ensure that women are closely involved in the design, improvement, and maintenance of the rural access roads. About 30% of local employees hired for road maintenance will be women who are paid equal wages for equal work. The roads will also include safety features that take into account the needs of the elderly, women, children, and disabled in the community.