ISLAMABAD: 

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) will give $220 million to Pakistan in the country’s attempt to rebuild and upgrade roads, bridges and other high-priority infrastructure in Punjab and Azad Jammu and Kashmir areas damaged by the 2014 floods.

The Board of Directors of the Manila-based lending agency approved the loan on Tuesday, according to a handout issued by the bank’s local office. The project will be carried out over three years with an expected completion date of June 2018.

The floods in September 2014 displaced over 2.5 million people across 44 districts, and damaged more than 445,000 hectares of agricultural land, causing severe hardship to about a quarter of a million farmers.

A flood assessment report in 2014 estimated recovery needs at around $440 million, including $56 million for building resilience of the affected population and their productive assets, said the ADB.

The ADB loan will be used to rebuild important infrastructure in the worst-hit areas of Punjab province and the districts of Haveli, Kotli and Poonch in AJK. The restored infrastructure will be built to withstand future extreme weather events. The ADB will also extend $2 million technical assistance to increase the capacity of disaster oversight agencies to plan for and handle future disasters.

Pakistan is highly dependent on agriculture and prone to floods and other extreme weather related events like the current severe heat wave, and these will worsen as a result of climate change, said Donneth Walton, Principal Natural Resources and Agriculture Specialist in ADB’s Central and West Asia Department.

The $220-million assistance will support a ‘build-back-better’ approach, with multi-hazard-resistant features incorporated into the restored infrastructure, he added.

The ADB’s assistance will complement relief efforts by other development partners. It will also allow Pakistan to redirect its finances to housing and livelihood cash grants for vulnerable groups, which will help restore economic activity in affected areas.

In the outgoing fiscal year, the ADB’s assistance to Pakistan remained far below estimates. According to the Economic Affairs Division, the ADB gave only $412.4 million in loans from July through May, which was only 38% of the annual estimates of $1.1 billion.

It was the second time in the last four years when the ADB extended loans for rebuilding infrastructure affected by natural disasters. In 2011, the ADB had approved a package of $650 million emergency loan and $4 million technical assistance to help meet urgent reconstruction priorities. The loan had been extended to restore transport network, reconstruct roads, bridges and irrigation system.

However, the loan has not yet been fully utilised due to problems faced by the two executing agencies, the National Highway Authority (NHA) and the Planning and Development Department of the Government of Sindh (PD&D).

The NHA could not timely utilise the loan, resulting into extension of eight months in the closing date of the project. However, despite the extension, till the end of December 2014, the overall progress reached 79% against the revised planned progress of 88%.

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