I’d like to start by thanking the Minister of Environment for his inspiring opening remarks, and the many organizers of this important gathering for extending an invitation to the World Bank to participate in this historic event.
I happened to work for several years on rural water supply and sanitation projects in South Asia, mainly India. But never before have had I an opportunity to join in celebrating 10 years of hosting conferences to discuss critical water sector challenges. By that standard, Albania has already demonstrated its long-standing commitment to addressing one of the most critical dimensions of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG).
What we discuss and learn today and throughout this conference is about turning this commitment into tangible impacts on the lives of the poor and rural populations. So let me then turn to the question of this panel – namely, “Ensuring Service for Rural Areas and the Poor – Framing and Defining the Problem.”
A Global Perspective – the Scale of the Problem
- Over 800 million people still lack safe water supply, according to WHO/UNICEF estimates
- At the current pace, the world will miss the sanitation MDG target by almost 1 billion people
- What this means in terms of health outcomes is that 2.2 million young children are dying from a preventable cause each year
- For children under 15, the impact of diarrhea is greater than HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB combined
- In economic terms, we (the World Bank) estimate that between 2-7% of GDP is lost through unsafe water and poor sanitation in developing countries while economic benefits exceed the cost of investment by a range of 3 to 30.
Albania is better off than many developing countries -but not for all yet
- Albania is endowed with an estimated 8,600 m3 per capita per year in water resources – an enviable position from the vantage point of many countries
- Current utilization rate is estimated at only 6% annually
- Relatively high access to water in urban municipalities at 90%
- But much lower access to piped water connections in rural municipalities - 58%
- Corresponding sewerage coverage is 68% urban and 2% rural
- 18 % of rural household spend 30 minute or more to fetch drinking water – against 6 % of urban households (DHS 2009). Women carry the main burden.
- While not large in numbers, there are still communes and people in Albania who are by-passed by country’s impressive achievements. Water supply is an urgent priority in many mountain villages; for example, Cahan village, in Hasi District, Kukes region that I visited recently.
- So the question is how to ensure more equitable outcomes in access to water and sanitation services
A Global Perspective - Critical Policy Challenges
- Insufficient prioritization and policy direction
- Insufficient national investment and poor targeting of the rural and poor households
- Weak institutional capacity
- Lack of accountability and incentives for water service providers
- Weak data collection and analysis to inform policy
Specific Challenges in Albania
- Inefficiencies in water distribution and management are a chronic problem:
- National average of 13 hours water supply per day
- 70% non-revenue water is an alarming statistic
- Only 44% of household connections are metered on average nationally, thus discouraging sound water demand management
- Subsidy could and should be better targeted to the poor
- We (the World Bank) estimate that water and sanitation sector subsidies, both direct and indirect, amount to approximately $30 million per year
- Much of this is provided to sustain the operations of water and sanitation utilities
- Little is known about how much of this reaches those who need assistance the most, but it is safe to say that a majority of these subsidies could be better targeting the poor, including those unserved by existing networks.
How is the World Bank Helping?
- First, we agreed with the Government to place the water sector at the forefront of our new Country Partnership Strategy.
- Second, we are assisting the Government in formulating a new Water and Sanitation Sector Strategy that will, in part, aim to address mis-targeted subsidies with the aim of structuring subsidies to better target the poor
- Third, we are conducting a “Willingness to Pay” Pilot Study to better understand the conditions and priorities of citizens from different strata of society and to see where quality of service and pricing policies can be better designed to reach different target groups
- Fourth, we are preparing a new investment operation to develop a scheme that will dramatically increase the supply of water to the Durres Water Utility Service Area, including to more than 126,000 rural residents in 3 municipalities and 4 communes north of Durres
- Fifth, we are assisting in developing a Water Demand Management Program that would reduce unaccounted for water losses (through universal metering, better management, and public awareness)
- Six, we are preparing an investment operation to improve water resource management and irrigation in an integrated manner that will primarily help rural communities with water supply for both productive and household needs;
- Seventh, we are ensuring good quality water supply and sanitation facilities in projects beyond water sector per se, such as the education project where the World Bank, jointly with other partners, supporting government in rehabilitating and building new schools, including several rural municipalities.
Going forward, I would like to underscore the World Bank’s deep commitment to working closely with all key stakeholders in the water and sanitation sector:
- To promote good governance and stewardship of a substantial but also threatened national endowment;
- To ensure greater equity in access to water and sanitation services;
- To find more energy efficient and effective resource management approaches that will ensure the long-term sustainability of water and sanitation service provision; and
- To reduce supply-side subsidies to institutions, while attending to the demand-side requirements of those who need subsidies the most – rural communities and the poor.