World Bank Infrastructure Projects in Asia Take on Mainstreaming Resilience with Japanese Expertise and Support
The challenges to mainstreaming disaster and climate resilience in the World Bank’s infrastructure investments in Asia range from technical to institutional, but the pay-offs are clear and Japanese expertise can play a key role in ensuring that quality infrastructure is built as a result.
This was the consensus when experts from the World Bank’s Disaster Risk Management, Urban, and Energy teams and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) came together for the 6th Public Seminar, hosted by the World Bank Tokyo Office and the Disaster Risk Management (DRM) Hub, Tokyo.
The seminar was organized to hear from the Bank experts about various efforts to integrate DRM in infrastructure projects to strength resilience supported by the DRM Hub, and challenges they face on the ground.
The World Bank put $5.6 billion in new development financing for resilience in fiscal year 2015 – a number that has been rising at a rate of 15% annually. The Japan-World Bank Program for Mainstreaming DRM in Developing Countries helps connect this investment with the technical assistance and capacity needed.
The Bank experts explained how this works in practice, from increasing the climate resilience of infrastructure in Sri Lanka to integrating disaster and climate risk considerations in road maintenance processes in Bhutan, from strengthening disaster recovery and risk reduction capacity in Pacific island power utilities to using a rapid and effective post-disaster assessment to scale up resilience in roads, housing, and disaster management in Uttarakhand, India.
Business Case vs. The Challenges
Highlighting the transformational potential of the Government of Japan’s Partnership for Quality Infrastructure initiative, Yasusuke Tsukagoshi, Special Representative, Japan, welcomed the seminar to the World Bank Office, underlined the World Bank’s efforts in increasing resilience in infrastructure in line with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and for contributing to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
In opening remarks, Francis Ghesquiere, Head of GFDRR, noted that investments in resilience can reduce the losses that disasters cause and unlock growth by stimulating new innovation and investment, but that development professionals must recognize that investment funds are limited, “old habits die hard”, including existing planning and construction practices, and adaptive approaches that respond to local contexts are critical.
The seminar took a close look at many of the challenges to ensuring the quality and resilience of the infrastructure investments that developing countries make.
Marc Forni, Senior DRM Specialist, demonstrated how spatial analytics, low-cost open data collection technologies, and a whole host of targeted products and approaches can drive transformative large-scale infrastructure investments, such as those being prepared in Can Tho, Vietnam. Roberto Aiello, Senior Energy Specialist, showed how integrating considerations of natural hazards can strengthen energy planning, efficiency, and sustainability in the Pacific.
Fostering new road and slope stabilization approaches, including many originating in Japan, the World Bank’s support to Uttarakhand after the devastating 2013 floods have allowed major advances in the state’s connectivity, as Yuka Makino, Senior Operations Officer, noted.
In conclusion, Abhas Jha, the World Bank’s East Asia and Pacific Practice Manager for Urban and DRM, pointed out that public officials face “cruel trade-offs” between increased quality and resilience of their investments on one hand and larger quantities of investment outputs, such as schools, water, and sanitation, on the other. This puts the onus on development professionals to help these policymakers adopt a longer timeframe for the returns of their investments and integrate resilience considerations into their regular investment processes, such as through a focus on regular lifecycle analysis, as promoted by the Partnership for Quality Infrastructure.
Joining the seminar at the Tokyo Development Learning Center (TDLC), more than 100 participants from the private sector, government, and academia offered additional perspectives on opportunities for bringing Japanese expertise to these challenges, as well as their observations and questions for the panel.