The Urban Development Project (UDP) invested $13.4 million to reverse a protracted post-Soviet Union decline in the quality of municipal infrastructure and services in the Kyrgyz Republic. The project improved the learning environment (facilities, furniture, and equipment) and seismic resilience at schools, upgraded street lighting, and closed gaps in drinking water supply and solid waste collection services. The interventions followed the priorities of the country’s National Sustainable Development Strategy and benefitted a total of 61,094 people (31,158 of whom were women) in four small towns. Energy efficiency measures under the UDP will save at least 18,000 megawatt hours (MWh) over the lifespan of the retrofits. The project also increased the capacity of municipal officials to sustain and replicate project achievements.
As the UDP Project Coordinator at ARIS noted “UDP was a complex project. While the implementation was not easy due to its complex and novelty nature especially for school retrofits, it offered many benefits to the project team and the beneficiaries. We learned firsthand about retrofitting practices and processes, which was very new to the Kyrgyz Republic. We spread this new knowledge wide to educate others of global good practices. UDP served as a model demonstrating cost- and energy-efficient outputs. At the same time, our work was very rewarding, showing immediate results for the students and teachers, and the residents of selected towns who are now enjoying running potable water in their homes and can walk safely after dark thanks to the improved streetlighting. Before the project, over 4,000 students and teachers suffered from delapidated and unsafe school infrastructure. This was coupled with lack of furniture, blackboards, and IT equipment. Now they are enjoying the improved learning environment, hopefully leading to their brighter future”.
Basic municipal services in the Kyrgyz Republic had been declining since the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, due to lack of funding coupled with weak institutional capacity and poor municipal management practices. Meanwhile, steady urbanization in the country meant fast-growing demand for quality services outstripping the supply that could be provided. This in turn led to sprawl, low financial performance, and limited efficiency in municipalities.
As a result, towns and cities outside of the capital provided residents with very unreliable and often unsafe infrastructure. Only 25 to 50 percent of people in smaller cities and towns received solid waste collection service. Due to the Soviet legacy, buildings suffered from lack of energy efficiency measures, making them costly to run and uncomfortable during winter and summer months. Most public buildings, including schools and kindergartens, were constructed during the 1960s and 1970s; they had outlived their lifespan and faced increased vulnerability to seismic risks.
Local governments in the Kyrgyz Republic were ill-equipped to tackle these challenges. They often followed rigid Soviet-era building codes and standards that were out of touch with markets and local conditions.
Drawing on its long history of working with Kyrgyz municipalities on services and infrastructure, the World Bank selected four towns where it would work to address the gaps in municipal services. In these selected municipalities, the UDP cultivated a focus on “hard” infrastructure investments and “soft” activities to ensure sustainability, brought together in three main themes:
1. Quality and accessible municipal services (solid waste collection, street lighting, and water supply systems).
2. Improved energy efficiency and seismic resilience retrofits of urban infrastructure, with this pilot introduced in the Kyrgyz Republic for the first time.
3. Strengthened institutions to sustain improvements.
All investments supported under the project were screened for climate change considerations, and included relevant adaptation and mitigation measures.
The UDP helped improve the quality of life for 61,094 people in project areas, of whom 31,158 were women. The achievements reached under the project spanned three main areas.
The project promoted energy-efficient infrastructure and seismically retrofitted schools. Approximately 9,000 people benefitted from enhanced energy efficiency of schools and street lighting. Estimated total energy savings of 18,000 MWh were delivered to the selected towns. Total savings seen under these investments would be enough to power around 2,300 average American homes a year. Moreover, the project piloted seismic retrofits of four schools and two kindergartens, benefitting 4,000 students and teachers by providing a structurally safer, improved learning environment. It also organized seven capacity-building sessions for over 100 officials to spread knowledge about the process and benefits of seismic retrofitting.
The project supported improved municipal provision of drinking water and solid waste collection services. Approximately 52,000 people benefitted from enhanced drinking water supply in two towns. To achieve this, the project invested in rehabilitation and expansion of physical municipal water supply networks, and trained authorities in planning and managing the service. The duration of water supply in project areas increased from a baseline of 2-3 hours to 8-10 hours, saving residents time and allowing new businesses to open. In urban areas, 41,200 people gained access to regular solid waste collection. The project contributed to overhauling municipal trash collection fleets by financing the purchase of ten specialized solid waste collection trucks. Furthermore, the project introduced an e-billing system for the water utility company to improve its customer registry and move from paper bills to e-billing practice, leading to increased collection and revenues for the service.
The project strengthened institutional development for sustainability. Through the project, municipalities prepared four Energy Savings Plans to inform their future investment planning in public infrastructure. The project held over 500 meetings with approximately 8,000 participants on sustainable water management, individual connections, and billing. Municipalities and national government agencies also expanded their capacity through Utility Performance Improvement Plans, an e-billing system, and a roadmap to improve urban planning.
Bank Group Contribution
The total cost of the UDP was $13.3 million. The International Development Association (IDA) contributed $11.32 million of this cost through a $5.94 million loan and a $5.39 million grant. The Kyrgz Government co-financed the remaining $1.6 million.
The Kyrgyz Community Development and Investment Agency (ARIS) was the implementing partner for the UDP, leading the preparatory works and ensuring high-quality outputs. The project team at ARIS received multiple trainings (theoretical and on-the-job) in retrofitting practices, sustainable public service delivery and others. With World Bank support, they attended multiple training programs and study tours.
The World Bank team also conducted multiple meetings with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in order to coordinate and harmonize similar projects in the same geographical area. It also held regular meetings while preparing and implementing the UDP with other donors operating in the Kyrgyz Republic, such as the Swiss Development Cooperation, Asian Development Bank, and German Development Agency.
The UDP’s pilot seismic resiliency and energy efficiency retrofits in schools and kindergartens laid a path for new investment operations in the Kyrgyz Republic. These included the Enhancing Resilience in Kyrgyzstan Project (ERIK, approved on May 4, 2018) and the Heat Supply Improvement Project (HSIP, approved on October 27, 2017). Part of the ERIK project focused on making 40 schools more functional and safer against earthquakes. Meanwhile, HSIP is conducting a detailed energy and the seismic audit on 21 public buildings to inform seismic retrofits coupled with energy efficiency overhauls. All these actions build on the UDP’s work.