Integrate Water Management, Help Countries on Hydropower, says Review of World Bank Group Water Strategy

August 31, 2010

WASHINGTON, August 31, 2010 – With the global population expected to reach nine billion by 2050, economic development spurring demand for more and better food, and increased hydrological variability caused by climate change, a review of the World Bank Group’s water strategy calls for better information and a more integrated approach to water management.
We can't properly tackle global priorities of food security, renewable energy, adaptation to climate change, public health, and urbanization unless we manage water better,” said Julia Bucknall, Water Sector Manager for the World Bank. “And to manage water better, we really can't sidestep solid hydrological analysis.” 
The Mid-Cycle Implementation Progress Report for the Water Resources Strategy—entitled Sustaining Water for All in a Changing Climate—reaffirms the soundness of the Bank Group’s 2003 water strategy and project implementation track record.  It notes highly satisfactory outcome ratings for Bank water projects, and an appropriate emphasis on high-priority countries, that is, countries whose people face obstacles to their access to water.
The report, launched today at Bank Group headquarters, echoes findings of the Independent Evaluation Group (IEG) March 2010 study of the Bank’s water portfolio. Both reviews found that, as lending in the water sector has increased, project performance has improved, with satisfactory ratings consistently higher than the Bank-wide average of 75 percent.
But the report, drafted by Nancy Vandycke, also laments slow progress on the Millennium Development Goal of reducing by half the proportion of people without access to improved sanitation, as well as the continuing shortage of reliable data on water availability and use.
Specifically, the report, endorsed by the World Bank Board’s Committee on Development Effectiveness (CODE), directs the Bank Group to:

  • enhance an integrated approach to water resource management to meet growing demand for water in a climate-resilient way;
  • scale-up support for hydropower, as the largest source of renewable and low-carbon energy, including high-risk, high-reward infrastructure projects;
  • focus more on water for climate change adaptation and mitigation;
  • increase assistance to agricultural water management; and
  • provide, with partners, improved sanitation to the 2.6 billion people who still live without it, in both rural areas and fast-growing urban slums.

Inger Andersen, Vice-President for Sustainable Development at the World Bank, welcomed the Progress Report, singling out its reaffirmation of the institution’s commitment to help developing countries to upgrade or build adequate hydraulic infrastructure, or remove obstacles to it.
Only 23 percent of hydropower potential located in developing countries has been exploited. The gains for the poor can be enormous,” she said. “To achieve those gains successfully we must engage with communities pro-actively to identify local benefits and manage and mitigate any risks associated with hydropower projects.  In that manner, all people benefit, today and tomorrow.”
Water Sector Manager Bucknall welcomed the guidance provided by the report. “Its findings show that the 2003 strategy correctly identified the key factors that influence the water sector today, namely population, growth, urbanization, and climate change. The strategic directions outlined in this report—aligned with key findings in the IEG report on water—will guide the Bank’s Water Anchor and the regions from now to 2013.” 


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