| Time for change |
Guwahati, April 1: The World Bank has asked Dispur to set up a Rs 400-crore road maintenance fund by March 2013 and increase it to Rs 500 crore by 2018.
The bank has put this condition as part of the $400 million Assam state roads project, which it cleared recently.
The bank will contribute $320 million in the project scheduled to complete in 2018.
Dispur had set up a road fund in 2004 to mobilise non-budgetary funds for road maintenance but the process could not begin.
The bank’s report said together with the maintenance grants from the 13th Finance Commission and the state government’s current level of funding, the road maintenance fund would ensure adequate funds for road maintenance.
“To date, maintenance has been under-resourced and the sector has a long history of build-neglect-rebuild of roads. Early in the decade, the maintenance shortfall was substantial, as at times only 10 to 30 per cent of requirements were met. Recently, the situation has improved to 50 to 60 per cent. This is still a substantial shortfall but it is likely that the situation will improve further over the next five years when the 13th Finance Commission’s grants take effect,” the report said.
A source in the PWD said in 2010-2011 there was a 46 per cent shortage of the maintenance funds.
In addition, the project will support development of a long-term financing strategy that will also explore the possibility of increasing private sector investments and reorienting the state government’s own funds to the priority needs.
The bank said the state government would have to establish a road maintenance strategy to define and put in place a clear and comprehensive framework to institutionalise road maintenance in PWD by incorporating the international practices for asset management, financing, and execution of maintenance.
The state has already formulated an initial draft for the strategy.
The achievement of the project will be monitored by the following indicators — increase in the percentage of secondary road network in good and fair condition from 25 to 40 per cent, increase in the safety rating of the project corridors from 10 to 40 per cent and improved asset management introduced in the majority of the districts.
The PWD is currently undertaking a road safety assessment of 960km of secondary roads with support from the World Bank Global Road Safety Facility.
The source said the state government intended to elevate the status of the existing road board to an apex body consisting of major stakeholders to provide overall policy direction and oversight to road sector development, specifically on investment decisions, asset management, coordination of various road sector programmes, and management of the road maintenance fund.