$1 billion from World Bank for upgrading cities, towns


- dEsPeraTe cRaNky -
The World Bank has agreed to provide a loan of $1 billion (around Rs 5,000 crore) to India for various infrastructure projects aimed at overhauling cities and towns.

The huge financial assistance, likely to start flowing from November this year, is expected to meet the fund requirements of cities implementing infrastructure projects under the Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM).

Currently, around 523 projects related to urban infrastructure development are being implemented in 65 cities across the country under JNNURM. The Union urban development ministry is under pressure to manage funds for completion of the projects committed under the Mission as the plan support has been almost exhausted.
Urban development secretary M Ramachandran told TOI: "The World Bank has agreed in principle to give $1 billion loan for implementing various infrastructure projects under JNNURM."

"The negotiations with the Bank are in the final stages and the ministry hopes to get the loan in November," said a senior official, pointing out that there is shortage of funds as the ministry has already committed about Rs 58,000 crore for projects in Mission cities under JNNURM.

Under this UPA flagship programme, the focus is on ensuring basic services -- water supply, sewerage, solid waste management, drainage system and housing -- for the poor in the Mission cities.

The flagship scheme was launched in 2005 since the cities were failing to cope up with huge population pressure and infrastructure was cracking. Its aim is to revamp the transportation system, roads, water supply and sanitation and to initiate crucial reforms like improving municipal governance in cities.

With the "successful" launch of the scheme, the UPA leadership expects the ministry to move forward as there is a need for development of infrastructure in cities considering the rapid urbanisation at a time the government is facing a fund crunch due to its commitment to other social sector initiatives like the right to food and right to education.

"It was for the reason that the ministry sought the loan from World Bank after finance ministry approval," a UD ministry official said, emphasising that the government may go for more loan from the Bank at later stage depending on the implementation of the projects.