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China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) on Wednesday said that its board has approved $329 million loan to build access roads to 4,000 villages in Gujarat. "The board of directors of the AIIB approved a loan of $329 million to build access roads to approximately 4,000 villages in all 33 districts of Gujarat, India," AIIB said in a statement. Insufficient road connectivity into these villages limits their ability to access healthcare services, bring their goods to market and access transportation for their children to attend schools, it said. This project will construct and upgrade district and farm-to-market roads for the villagers and provide approaches to educational institutions, schools and hospitals. The upgraded road access is expected to have a positive impact on women and girls by improving school attendance rates as the latter drop out due to lack of access to all weather roads. The project will also better integrate rural population, tribal villages, business and industries with the national and state economy through better transport connectivity, the statement said. "This project will directly contribute to the economic development of Gujarat and India by improving the mobility of the rural population," said D J Pandian, Vice-President and Chief Investment Officer, AIIB. He said that by integrating isolated and poor rural populations with the rest of the state and improving their access to critical social services such as education and healthcare, a positive impact can be made on the economic and social outcome of local communities. This is a standalone project by AIIB and part of phase one of the multi-phase Gujarat's 'Chief Minister's Rural Roads Programme' that complements the Centre's 'Prime Minister's Rural Roads Programme'. To monitor the project's progress, the bank is piloting a software tool specifically developed for this. AIIB is a multilateral development bank, headquartered in Beijing, which commenced its operation in January 2016 and has now grown to 80 approved members from around the world.
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