Sitting out in the sun, in the middle of a public school premises, I intently looked at a woman clad in a patchy orange saree carrying a lean child on her lap. It was hard not to wonder whether her bare five years of primary school education really helped her understand public financial management! Indeed I was wrong. It was the sheer urge of entertainment and not curiosity about public financial management that drew her, and many more like her, to the premises of a government owned school in Hazaribaag, near the Beribaad, Mirpur area of Dhaka.
This week marked another milestone in Bangladesh’s fight against climate change. Bangladesh with its long coastline and high poverty rates is among those countries most at risk from climate change. This week we got some good news on the climate front: Bangladesh was one of the three countries for which the Pilot Program on Climate Resilience (PPCR) was approved. The country will receive a total of US$50 million in grant and US$60 million in near zero-interest credits to pilot climate resilience strategies.
The PPCR was created to help highly vulnerable countries to pilot and demonstrate ways to integrate climate risk and resilience into core development planning. It is under the broader umbrella US$6.4 billion Climate Investment Funds (CIF), created in 2008 to finance climate resilience strategies. Today, it is one of just a handful of funds available for adaptation. The CIF’s partners—donor countries, funding recipients, and five multilateral development banks—were meeting in Washington this week.
Until now there has been a spotty history of funding for climate change adaptation. We’ve hardly seen anything of the pledges made in Copenhagen (US$100 billion annually in the long term and US$30 billion as a fast-start fund). Money for adaptation is not even a fraction of what is needed. In this context, PPCR funds provide something real and timely for countries like Bangladesh for which adaptation is key to meeting the Millennium Development Goals.
Saving Electricity–One Bulb at a Time!
|Waiting in line to exchange lightbulbs|
On a crisp October morning, all across Bangladesh in 39 districts, they flocked to their nearest schools and community centers, clutching their electricity bills and carrying small bags of used incandescent bulbs. There was much excitement and curiosity in the air – people stood in long snaking queues, gathered to chit-chat and watch what was going on. Men, women and even children waited patiently; expectantly.
They were waiting for the second round of free distribution of energy efficient compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) to begin.
CFLs consume one-fifth energy compared to regular bulbs. At a time when Bangladesh’s power generation capacity is much below the energy demand, using CFLs can significantly help in reducing peak electricity demand.
This is great news for the energy starved people of Bangladesh, many of whom have to endure hours of power cuts every day. During peak hours, the country faces electricity shortages of about 1,500-2,000 MW. In some areas, this means power cuts for at least 6 - 8 hours a day! Using CFLs will save electricity and help the people cut back on their electricity bills.
|A power substation in Yingxhou, Sichuan Province was almost totally destroyed in the magnitude 7.9 Sichuan-Wenchuan earthquake in 2008.|
The statistics are startling. 75% of global flood mortality risk is concentrated in only three Asian countries: Bangladesh, China and India. 85 % of deaths from tropical cyclones are in just two Asian countries: Bangladesh and India. Indeed, Bangladesh alone accounts for over three-quarters of people dying from tropical cyclones. 85% of global earthquake risk is concentrated in only 12% of the earth’s surface—a large part of it in Asia. In 2009, six of the ten countries with the highest mortality rates and GDP losses from natural disasters were in Asia. 82% of all lives lost in disasters since 1997, are in Asian countries.
The United Nations hosted the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Summit in New York City last month, with the participation of over 120 global leaders from both developed countries and emerging markets. This year’s summit was an especially momentous occasion since it marks 10 years since the Goals were set into motion and begins the 5 year countdown to 2015 when the goals are to be met.
At the awards ceremony on September 19th, both Bangladesh and Nepal received MDG country awards for advancements towards the development goals in health indicators with India receiving a nomination for greatly increasing access to education.
We asked South Asia's Human Development Director, Michal Rutkowski about these achievements.
The supply of electricity is a necessary ingredient for economic and social development in low income countries. Electricity is considered to be one of the most important services for improving the welfare of individual citizens. In the digital age, it is difficult to visualize development without electricity. Apart from the availability of energy per se, change in the quality of energy is one of the most important drivers of productivity.
The process of economic development necessarily involves a transition from low levels of energy consumption to higher levels where the linkages between energy, non-energy inputs and economic activity change significantly as an economy meanders through different stages of development. With such progress, commercial fossil fuels and ultimately electricity becomes predominant. Further, the expansion of electricity supply is critical to minimize the consumption of biomass fuel that has been responsible for the massive deforestation, desertification and many health problems.
All of the above sounds fairly straightforward and non-controversial, right? Not really. Count on economists for coming up with Harry Truman’s proverbial “on the other hand”. In other words, there are no straight answers as is most often the case in the infernal complexities, contradictions and ambiguities of our favorite ‘dismal science’.
The power supply situation in Bangladesh remains as precarious as ever; with power outages becoming more erratic and load shedding persistently higher than the corresponding months in the previous year (see Figure). Bangladesh is currently experiencing unprecedented levels of load shedding nationally. Brought about by a shortage of generation supply capacity, load shedding is a last resort measure to prevent a collapse of the national electricity supply system. The risk of load shedding will remain high until at least 2013 if further actions are not taken to ameliorate the situation. Specific and immediate interventions were needed to minimize the risk of load shedding until the new peaking plant and base load electricity generating capacity being built comes online.
The government has taken initiatives to increase the generation capacity to 7,000 MW by 2013 through various technologies (fossil fuel and renewable) with both private and public sector participation. A large portion of this plan relies on quick rental power based on imported liquid fuels which are expensive, more than three times the cost per unit of electricity at which power is currently produced by large power plants.
World Bank Open Forum: On October 7-8, the world's financial leaders will be in Washington, D.C., working together to find solutions to the most pressing issues in the wake of the financial crisis. You're invited to join this online event featuring live-webcasts of expert discussions, special announcements, and a 24-hour global chat forum on three key issues: open data and development solutions, global job creation, and major development challenges.
Vancouver was rated as the most livable city in 2010. Is there any precedent of municipalities rating the livability of their slums?
Could a rating of the livability of slums leverage improved quality of services? For instance, in Bangladesh (where most slums are located on private land) poor services in slums are maintained because:
1. The Residents: are not so much illegal settlers as they are tenants renting accommodation. While they want improved services, they also know that better accommodation commands higher rents.
2. The Land Owner: does not invest in upgrading (as infrastructure is difficult to maintain) neither does he want to sell the land (as he will get far less than the land is actually worth) neither can he evict the residents (as middle-men are often housed on this land).
3. The Municipality: does not want to recognize these slums (because they do not have planning approval) neither does it want these residents evicted (as they constitute a sizeable vote bank).
If a municipality were to rank the livability of slums:
1. The Municipality: would gain popularity by recognizing the existence of these communities.
2. The Land Owners: would gain recognition for providing better living conditions for residents.
3. The Residents: would incur health & welfare benefits from the better living conditions.
Much lip service is paid in various quarters to the potential use of mobile phones in education in developing countries. That said, concrete examples of such use -- especially projects that have gone beyond small initial pilot stages -- remain few and far between. This is beginning to change. One interesting project can be found in Bangladesh, where the BBC World Service Trust and BBC Learning English are implementing the Janala project, an initiative that is providing English language lessons to citizens via their mobile phones as part of the wider English in Action program in Bangladesh, funded by the UK's Department for International Development (UKaid).
Some of people involved with the Janala project recently shared some information about what they have been doing -- and learning -- as part of a discussion series at USAID around 'mobile education' topics (the other project presented in the latest session was the MILLEE project, which has been profiled on this blog before). I was fortunate enough to be be able to sit in on the presentation, at the kind invitation of USAID educational technology team, and thought I'd share some brief highlights: