The World Bank has approved a $500 million loan for Sri Lanka to provide safe, climate-resilient roads to connect agricultural supply chains through the Inclusive Connectivity and Development Project.

In a statement, the World Bank said this project is expected to benefit around 16 million people living in rural communities in selected districts of Sri Lanka, reports Xinhua news agency.

In Sri Lanka, roads carry around 95 per cent of passengers and 98 per cent of cargo. While nearly all national roads are paved, only 67 per cent of provincial roads and 13 per cent of rural roads are in good condition.

Sri Lanka also has the highest rate of road fatalities in South Asia with around 3,000 deaths per year, the World Bank statement said.

An uninterrupted road network is crucial to link rural communities to health and education services and other economic opportunities and to connect small-holder farmers to domestic and international markets, the statement added.

"Improving access to basic services and economic opportunities in rural areas, and reducing regional disparities in economic development, is critical for promoting inclusion and opportunities for all," said Faris Hadad-Zervos, Country Director of the World Bank for Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka.

"The project will also create many short-term employment opportunities, which will help advance the post-pandemic recovery," Faris added.

This project is part of the development program to improve 100,000 km of rural roads, a key initiative under the Government's national development strategy.

"The project will help develop green and climate-resilient transport and agricultural logistics, and mainstream climate resilience practices in infrastructure planning and investments for a more resilient future for Sri Lanka," said Winnie Wang, World Bank Task Team Leader of the Project.

The project will build on the ongoing provincial and rural roads rehabilitation initiatives under the World Bank- financed Transport Connectivity and Asset Management Project and the Asian Development Bank-funded Integrated Road Investment Programs - iRoad I and II.