ADB opens new office in Muzaffarabad to help with quake assistance

MUZAFFARABAD, PAKISTAN - ADB today opened an office in Muzaffarabad to assist in rebuilding the region that was so devastated by the October 2005 earthquake.

The move comes as the Manila-based development bank gears up to approve $400 million in new funds for projects that will address the needs of the earthquake affected area. ADB's Board of Directors will decide in June on the new concessional loans, which are expected to be used mainly in the rural housing and education sectors.

ADB has disbursed $183.8 million, with $72 million being used for rebuilding schools and other education projects, $69.3 million for reconstructing roads and other transport projects, $27.5 million for the health and $14.9 million for power projects.

"We believe it is best to move ahead as fast as possible with our earthquake assistance," ADB Vice President Liqun Jin said in a meeting in Muzaffarabad with Sardar Atiq-ur-Rehman, the Prime Minister of of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK). "This is why we are opening our office here. We want to expedite our work."

The establishment of the new Extended Mission office is the first of its kind for ADB in Pakistan.

Muzaffarabad was chosen as the site of the office because of its close proximity and access to all five earthquake affected districts of North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and the four districts of AJK. The Government of AJK provided the land and facilitated the construction of the building.

The Extended Mission office will promote effective coordination between the Government, ADB and other development partners.

"The Extended Mission exemplifies the importance that ADB attaches to the earthquake reconstruction and rehabilitation activities within affected areas and its continued support to the Government to manage the earthquake activities with due diligence," Mr. Jin said in a speech at the opening of the new office.

After flying by helicopter over Muzaffarabad, which was hard-hit by the quake, Mr. Jin commented on the fast pace of reconstruction evident across the city.

During a donor conference of 19 November 2005, ADB pledged $1 billion for Pakistan's reconstruction efforts from the quake. Before the conference, ADB had reallocated $105 million from various ongoing projects and also established the Pakistan Earthquake Fund (PEF), which included an initial contribution from ADB of $80 million in grants. This was followed by the approval of the Earthquake Emergency Assistance Project (EEAP) on 13 December 2005 amounting to $300 million, consisting of the PEF grant of $80 million and a soft loan of $220 million from ADB's concessional Asian Development Fund.


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