New Delhi: Beijing-based Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) on Wednesday announced its approval to a $329 million loan to build access roads across 4,000 villages in Gujarat.

The project was approved by the bank’s board of directors on Tuesday and entails construction and up gradation of district and farm-to-market roads for the villagers.

The funds have been approved to construct road linkages for last-mile connectivity to schools and tribal areas in 33 districts of the state.

The bank said that insufficient road connectivity to these villages limits their ability to access healthcare services, bring their goods to the market and access transportation for their children to attend school. It also added that the project will introduce a first-of-its-kind digitized map that would link ongoing rural road projects to enable real-time monitoring.

AIIB’s vice-president and chief investment officer D.J. Pandian said the project will also help to integrate rural population, tribal villages, business and industries with the national and state economy through better connectivity. This will contribute to improved agricultural productivity, higher non-farm employment opportunities and increased rural income.

“This project will directly contribute to the economic development of the State of Gujarat, and India, by improving the mobility of the rural population. By integrating isolated and poor rural populations with the rest of the state, and improving their access to critical social services, such as education and healthcare, we can have a positive impact on the economic and social outcomes of these local communities," he said.

The bank, in its statement, said the project will have three components. The first will involve building and upgrading roads and construction of last-mile connectivity along with missing infrastructure like culverts and bridges. Second, it will upgrade planned roads and bridges to prevent floods and widen roads.

The third one will be digitization of Gujarat’s rural road network which would be a pilot project. If the pilot monitoring software works well, the AIIB will introduce it for monitoring other future projects.

This is a stand-alone financed project by AIIB and is a part of phase one of the multiphase Government of Gujarat’s “Chief Minister’s Rural Roads Program" that complements the Government of India’s “Prime Minister’s Rural Roads Program".

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