World Bank approves US $500m to improve road connectivity in Western Region, Bangladesh

The World Bank has approved US $500m to help Bangladesh improve road connectivity along the Jashore-Jhenaidah corridor covering four western districts.

The Western Economic Corridor and Regional Enhancement (WeCARE) Phase I project is the first of a multi-phased US $1.4bn World Bank program to upgrade the existing 110km two-lane highway, Bhomra-Satkhira-Navaron and Jahore-Jhenaidah, to a safer and climate-resilient four-lane highway in western Bangladesh. The road connectivity in Bangladesh will support the government’s plan of developing a 260km economic corridor in the western part and benefit over 20 million people.

The first phase of the program will upgrade 48km of the N7 highway between Jashore and Jhenaidah and improve about 600km connecting rural roads and 32 rural markets/growth centers to stimulate the local economy. To improve road safety, the highway will have additional lanes for slow-moving vehicles and a median safety barrier to separate oncoming traffic.

According to Mercy Tembon, World Bank Country Director for Bangladesh and Bhutan, the western region of Bangladesh is endowed with many agricultural and natural produce and holds great potential of becoming a gateway for regional and international trade. “This project will unlock the region’s potential by stimulating the economy of districts, linking farms to markets, connecting Dhaka with the western region as well as with neighboring countries, thus enhancing trade, transit and logistics along the corridor,” she said.

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‘Digital Bangladesh’

To help the country realize the ‘Digital Bangladesh’ vision, the project will install fiber optic cables along the highway to provide reliable and affordable Internet access, which will be critical for emergency responses and business continuities in crises similar to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.

The project will also enhance agriculture supply chain efficiency in the western region by ensuring that produce are transported to markets in less time and lower cost. For example, in Khulna Division, where about 57% of the population’s income is generated from agricultural production, the project will build new markets and improve storage facilities along the corridor that will help farmers reduce waste, increase sales and earn more.

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