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BRIEFNovember 5, 2023

Resilient Asia Program

The World Bank team travelled across South Asia to capture stories on how air pollution is impacting daily lives and the solutions that can be put in place. 

The Resilient Asia Program (RAP), financed by UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), aims to accelerate transformational climate action in South Asia. RAP is a component under FCDO’s Climate Action for a Resilient Asia (CARA) initiative and the anchor window to lead on the climate resilience agenda under the World Bank South Asia Regional Integration, Cooperation and Engagement (RICE) Umbrella Trust Fund. The program will engage in activities to help advance the following four areas in the region:

  • Generating knowledge and improving understanding of impact of and response to climate change
  • Strengthening capacity to plan, design, and implement policies and investments that build climate resilience and protect biodiversity
  • Catalyzing climate investments and developing high impact climate action
  • Supporting regional cooperation and building resilience on shared/transboundary climate, environmental, and water resources

RAP will initially focus on Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, but is expected to expand to parts of the wider Indo-Pacific. 


  • end air pollution

    The Indo-Gangetic Plain–Himalayan Foothills (IGP-HF) region, spanning Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, and Pakistan, endures some of the most polluted air in the world. Air pollution travels long distances in South Asia and gets trapped in large “airsheds” that are shaped by climatology and geography, lowering air quality throughout the region.

    With RAP support, the World Bank is working to measure, analyze, and assist South Asia in developing and implementing a Regional Air Quality Management Program in the IGP-HF countries. This involves support for a broader airshed management approach, regional convening and coordination, and the facilitation of global knowledge and technical assistance, in collaboration with the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD)—a CARA partner. 

    In June 2024, the World Bank and ICIMOD will collaborate on the second Science Policy Dialogue (SPD) in support of coordinated air quality management in South Asia. The first SPD—held in Kathmandu in December 2022—convened government representatives from 24 institutions in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Pakistan. This led to the Kathmandu Roadmap, a cornerstone agreement which identifies air pollution as a critical development challenge hinging on regional coordination.  In addition, RAP support is underpinning emerging World Bank investment operations to stem air pollution in 10 jurisdictions across the IGP-HF of South Asia.

    Watch the Regional Film   I #EndAirPollution Campaign

  • OneSouthAsia

    South Asia is one of the most vulnerable regions to hydrometeorological and climate shocks. The transboundary nature of weather patterns calls for a regional perspective and cooperation in strengthening hydromet services and disaster resilience in the region. With RAP support, the South Asia Hydromet Forum (SAHF)—established in 2018—sustains regional engagement to promote collaboration and enhance capacity at the regional and sub-regional levels towards improving hydromet, and early warning and climate services in South Asia. As a catalyst for regional engagement, the South Asia Hydromet Forum organizes conferences—most recently the South Asia Hydromet Forum IV – "Unlocking Regional Synergies" in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in February, 2024. Since 2018, the four SAHF meets have convened over 650 hydromet professionals from the region, leading to the formation of the SAHF Executive Council in 2019 and a weekly Forecasters Forum (with over 108 weekly meetings held as of March 2024).

  • The World Bank
    Brahmaputra-Jamuna Transboundary Water Collaboration

    Rivers are the oldest means of transport in the massive Ganga-Brahmaputra-Meghna delta, where a dense lattice of waterways once carried over 70 percent of the goods and passengers within the region. Today, however, less than 2 percent of goods are transported by water.

    Bangladesh and India—the two countries that share the delta—are working to restore these long-defunct water channels. In addition, landlocked Nepal and Bhutan are also starting to harness the potential of the waterways to gain easier access to Bangladesh and India, as well as to ports on the Bay of Bengal. RAP is supporting an active water resources management dialogue between Assam, Bangladesh, and Bhutan, complementing two ongoing World Bank investment projects, and the formulation for a regional transboundary water management project.

  • The World Bank
    Sundarbans–Sustainably Harnessing Ocean Resources and Economy

    The Sundarbans region is the largest and one of the richest mangrove ecosystems in the world,  but it is under threat from climate change and human-induced pressures. RAP is supporting the governments of India and Bangladesh to prioritize packages of investments that will enhance the natural capital and strengthen the resilience of communities dependent on the Sundarbans through bluer, greener, and inclusive growth. The program helps to build resilience by improving the capacity of communities to adapt to changing conditions and respond to shocks, along with increasing livelihood opportunities and improving the management of natural capital.

  • Abhas Op-ed - India Cooling Report
    Regional Network to Support Thermal Comfort and Cooling Solutions

    Cooling has emerged as a developmental challenge in South Asia due to increased heat stress that is threatening the economy and jeopardizing health and livelihoods of millions. RAP is supporting  activities in South Asian countries to i) facilitate and inform policy decisions for the governments of South Asian countries as they seek to deliver sustainable cooling as a resilience strategy, ii) provide research support to relevant sectoral ministries on potential outcomes of National Cooling Action Plan implementation strategies, and iii) provide a platform for South Asian countries to approach the common challenge of heat-stress through sharing best practices and experiences.

  • OneSouthAsia
    South Asia Regional Platform for Ecological Resilience

    South Asia’s ecological resources—among the richest and most diverse globally—are under threat from climate change and human development encroaching on natural habitat. RAP is supporting knowledge, technical assistance, capacity building, and potential investments at scale, in management, restoration and conservation of natural resources in South Asia’s critical ecosystems while preserving the interests of local communities and livelihoods. Among the areas supported 2 are: Biodiversity Conservation and Transboundary Ecosystem Management through technical assistance on National Biodiversity and Action Plans; Human Wildlife Conflict which is on the rise with implications for wildlife and livelihoods sustainability; and forest fires which negatively influence the economies, environment, biodiversity, and social aspects at the regional and local scales.


  • The World Bank
    Resilient Development of Himalayas

    Geohazard risk in South Asia is increasing in the context of climate change. Home to the fragile Hindu-Kush Himalayan (HKH) region, South Asia is particularly vulnerable to geohazards like landslides and earthquakes, with 60 percent of globally occurring landslides in the region. The number of geohazards in South Asia quadrupled during 1970-2000, resulting in damages of over US$25 billion in 2008-2012 alone. RAP is supporting the development of landslide hazard monitoring and early warning models for 3-4 chosen hotspots that, importantly, can inform solutions for similar typologies/other locations. And building upon this work, an operational framework for landslide early warning will be developed for the whole HKH region. In addition, this activity will support greater financial resilience through strengthening Land Administration (information on land tenure, land valuation, land use, and land development), and geospatial Spatial Data Infrastructures (through developing regionally compatible systems). Finally, a conceptual framework and roadmap will be developed for establishing a Regional Center of Excellence in South Asia to promote greater collaboration and resilience in the region. 

  • Green Resilient
    Green Resilient Development in South Asia

    South Asia is the Emerging Market and Developing Economies (EMDE) region that is most vulnerable to climate change and has had the largest number of people affected by climate disasters in the past decade. Governments are severely constrained in their ability to support households and firms in their climate adaptation since South Asia is also the EMDE region with the highest government debt levels.3 The brunt of climate adaptation will therefore have to be borne by households and firms. As such, RAP is supporting surveys of households and firms in Bangladesh and India to better understand first, how can households and firms adapt to climate change? And second, which policies can help them adapt? This critical data will help to extend the research literature on adaptation.

  • Reports
    South Asia Resilience Knowledge Initiative

    Supporting a series of three high-level roundtables, the South Asia Resiliencet Knowledge Initiative is convening practitioners from across the region to delve into climate resilience issues in South Asia. The first roundtable, held on March 4, 2024, convened representatives from government, academia and civil society to discuss the Water-Food-Energy Nexus Approach in the South Asian context. This Approach explores the interaction and symbiosis of sectors to identify greater efficiencies in water, energy and food production, leading to improved outcomes.

    A second Roundtable: Catalyzing Climate Finance for Resilience in South Asia—a hybrid event planned in New York City (summer 2024) —will bring together experts to examine the complex relationship between South Asia's climate vulnerability and its ability to finance resilience (economic approaches to adaptation and disaster risk management) amid escalating debt challenges. The aim will be to identify emerging solutions to mobilize domestic and international resources, foster private sector investment, identify innovative and affordable climate finance instruments, and drive policy changes to strengthen the region’s capacity to advance climate resilience.


The UK’s Resilient Asia Program partnership with the World Bank will develop climate resilience and improve natural resource management, benefitting many millions of people across South Asia and the wider Indo-Pacific.
Jenny Bates
Director General for Indo-Pacific, Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
More than half of the population in South Asia has been impacted by one or more climate-related disasters in the last two decades. The Resilient Asia Program, made possible through the generous contributions of the UK government, is critical and timely to help the countries of South Asia tackle the climate crisis and work together for a resilient future.
Martin Raiser
Vice President, South Asia Region, World Bank