File: T. Narayan/ Outlook
The World Bank has approved USD 250 million assistance for Uttarakhand, which was hit hard in June by rains and landslides that killed 580 people, to help the state undertake rehabilitation work and strengthen its capacity for disaster management.
"In order to respond in a timely manner, the project was fast-tracked under the World Bank’s emergency procedures and was prepared within a 3-month period," said a release.
India had sought assistance from multi-lateral agencies like the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) for undertaking rehabilitation work in Uttarakhand. ADB too is expected to finalise its assistance package soon.
"A team has been in Dehradun from the day the request for assistance was sent by the government. We all know winter is quite harsh in these parts and so it was important for us to get the project going and help shelter people before winter hits them", World Bank's country director in India Onno Ruhl said.
Earlier, a joint World Bank and ADB team conducted a Rapid Damage and Needs Assessment (JRDNA) at the request of the Indian government to rebuild the state’s infrastructure and assets lost in the June disaster.
The JRDNA has estimated the physical damages across a range of sectors and calculated the cost of reconstruction at about USD 661 million. The sectors covered included housing and public infrastructure, roads and bridges, water supply and sanitation, livelihoods (in agriculture, fisheries and medium and small-scale enterprises), tourism, energy and environment.
"Disasters, like the one we witnessed in Uttarakhand, can roll back decades of development and are a fundamental threat to economic development and the fight against poverty," Ruhl said, adding that this project will focus on both reconstruction and disaster preparedness.
"It will help the government of Uttarakhand with immediate relief efforts by building houses and public infrastructure including small roads and bridges. A very important part of the project will be to help the state be better prepared for the future," he added.
The project will be financed by a credit from the International Development Association (IDA) – the part of the World Bank that helps the world’s poorest countries – which provides interest-free loans with 25 years to maturity and a grace period of 5 years.
Uttarakhand, from June 15-17, suffered unprecedented rainfall devastating the towns of Kedarnath, Rambara, Gaurikund and others.
According to official estimates, a total of 580 human lives were lost and over 5,200 people were reported missing. The disaster damaged several villages, roads, bridges and public buildings. It had left over 70,000 tourists and 100,000 local inhabitants stranded in the upper reaches of the hilly state.
Some of the key components of this project, Ruhl said, would include reconstruction of damaged houses, public buildings, roads, bridges and enhancement of the technical capacity of the state for managing future disaster risks.