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PRESS RELEASE

Half a Million Belarusians Will Benefit from New Water Supply and Sanitation Project

March 31, 2014

Washington, March 31, 2014 - The World Bank Group’s Board of Executive Directors today approved a US$90 million loan to the Republic of Belarus for an additional financing to the ongoing Water Supply and Sanitation Project. The project helps to increase access to and improve the quality of water supply and wastewater services in eight cities of the country and support the modernization of the sector.

The level of water supply and wastewater services in urban areas of the country is high by regional standards, and has shown steady improvement in the last 15 years. However, the reliability and safety of the services in some regions are less than satisfactory due to service interruptions, high losses in the distribution systems, and substantial operational costs incurred as a result of aging infrastructure and the need for maintenance. Water with iron content exceeding World Health Organization and national standards is still supplied to more than 20 percent of the population across Belarus.

“The project supports rehabilitation of facilities and overall sustainability of the water sector through revision of design norms, benchmarking of service providers and improving the energy efficiency of water and wastewater services,” said Stephane Dahan, World Bank Task Team Leader for the Project. “The project preparation relied on findings of Belarus Municipal Water Sector Review (2013) that identified a number of acute challenges, such as the need for modernization and improved financial sustainability in the context of decreasing financial support from the budget.”

The project complements the National Water Development Program Clean Water and scales up the improvements achieved in water and wastewater services under the original US$60 million loan approved in 2008. The new loan will finance upgrade and reconstruction of wastewater treatment plants in four towns; rehabilitation of trunk wastewater transmission systems in the cities of Mogilev and Grodno, and the upgrade of water production facilities and distribution systems in the towns of Rogachev and Shklov. The project will also strengthen the capacity of the participating utilities to provide better information to customers and develop social accountability mechanisms for water and wastewater services.

In addition to the investments made to upgrade the physical infrastructure, the project will support the country in formulating sound policies to ensure efficient investments in the sector, enhance its financial sustainability, thereby ensuring the affordability of the services the customers,” said Young Chul Kim, World Bank Country Manager for Belarus.

Belarus joined the World Bank in 1992. The current investment lending portfolio includes five operations for a total amount of US$647.5 million. Since Belarus joined the Bank, lending commitments to the country have totaled US$1.1 billion; in addition, 30 national programs have received grant financing totaling US$23.7 million.  The World Bank’s analytical and advisory activity program addresses main challenges and reform priorities of the country.

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PRESS RELEASE NO:
2014/416/ECA