October 17, 2014
The South-Western Bangladesh Rural Development Project (SWBRDP) has resulted in a range of socio-economic benefits to the inhabitants of 14 districts in the South Western Bangladesh. "After improvement of Upazila (sub-dsitrict) road we can now go to school on time" a 14 year old girl told JICA team when we visited Bakerganj Upazila of Barisal District to see the improvement work of 8.2km road under the project.
The purpose of this project is to reduce disparities among regions and sub-regions by upgrading rural infrastructures such as 112 upazila and 18 union (administrative village) roads as well as 50 local market places, several bridges, culverts, ghats, and etc. in 14 districts in the South-west region of Bangladesh where rural poverty is relatively sever compared to the other parts of the country.
"People cannot easily transport their goods to the market and pregnant women cannot visit hospital in urgent times due to lack of land transportation as the river transportation, boats, is our main means of transport" a group of villagers told the JICA team in Banaripara Upazila of Barisal. Now they are looking forward to the completion of the construction of 15.75km road including 93 structures (roads, bridges and culverts) in Banaripara under the project.
The project includes 4 large bridges, having length of more than 400m, in Madaripur and Barisal districts. Once the construction of these four bridges is completed, there will be a considerable socio-economic impact on the livelihood of more than 500,000 people living in 15 unions of the 2 districts as the area is divided into small parts by numerous winding rivers. After completion of the two bridges in Madaripur district, 4 growth centers and rural markets will be directly connected, which would provide easy communication for the local farmers for marketing their products. The duo bridges will also establish a direct connection between the southern part and the northern part of Madaripur district, reducing 15 km length from the existing rout of National Highway which runs around the district. More importantly, the bridges will enable quick access from the isolated areas of the 2 districts to the National Highways which lead to nearby big cities of Khulna and Barisal. The construction of these bridges started last year under LGED and is expected to be completed in next three years.
There has been a 40% to 63% decrease in transportations costs, depending on the location and nature of economic opportunities and 70% reduction in travel time. Apart from direct benefits of saving travel time and costs, it is reported that the people of the vicinities now have better access to public institutions such as school, college, hospital and commercial hubs like growth center and bazar. Better access to healthcare and social services has reduced household illness, allowing them to spare more time for education and employment. As a result, the farmers could increase the agricultural production, have more commercial opportunities and improved income.
Better access provided by the project roads has significantly enhanced the mobility of rural people, including rural women. The project also has a tremendous impact on poverty reduction as it generates 4,071,381 female labour days for Labour Contracting Society (LSC) members for tree plantation and village road maintenance activities which will be needed in future as well while the project also generates 62,468,710 female labour days employment opportunities from overall civil work. "We are very happy since we have been working for the wellbeing of the society and can earn money to support our family too" a group of female workers in Faridpur Sadar Upzila, who were doing road-maintenance work under the LCS told us. Through plantation of about 500 thousand trees on 400 km roads, the project also has a significant impact on environment such as decreasing the carbon dioxide level, preventing road side land erosion, enhancing rate of rainfall and finally helping conservation of biodiversity. The project has been implemented by LGED from 2009 and continues till 2017.