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The potential of one South Asia in 4 numbers

Delilah Liu's picture
Young Indian Female Student holding a "I believe in One South Asia" Sign
Young Indian Female Student at the South Asia Economic Forum 2015. Credit: World Bank

You don’t have to be a number-cruncher to enjoy this challenge:

1, 5, 200, and 2,800,000. Close your eyes after reading these numbers. Can you recite them in the right order?

Intrigued? If you’re interested in the development of South Asia, these four numbers will resonate with you. They represent four areas of opportunity for the region to further integrate and thrive economically.

Last month, prior to the South Asia Economic Conclave #SAEC15, Sanjay met with 30 Indian graduate students holding or currently pursuing advanced degrees in history, economics, and South Asia studies. He shared the 4 numbers with them and observed their responses. Here’s an overview of the conversation:​

How we made #OpenIndia

Ankur N's picture

Cross posted from the End Poverty in South Asia blog

open india

It has been a season ripe with new ideas and shifts in the open data conversation. At the Cartagena Data Festival in April, the call for a country-led data revolution was loud and clear. Later in June at the 3rd International Open Data Conference in Ottawa there was an emphasis on the use of open data-beyond mere publishing.

Mulling on these takeaways, a logical question to ask may be: what would a country-focused data project that aims to put data to use look like?

Will the Sun God answer poor farmers' prayers or make things worse?

Amit Jain's picture
A paddy farmer with his umbrella on a rainy day in West Bengal, India. Photo by Amit Jain / World Bank
Farmer in West Bengal, India. Photo by Amit Jain / World Bank)

If God appeared in the dream of a paddy farmer in India’s West Bengal and said, “You have made me happy with your hard work, make any three wishes and they will be granted,” the farmer will say “I want rain, rain, rain.”

That thought kept playing over and over in my mind, after interacting with farmers in the paddy fields of the Siliguri and Jalpaiguri districts of West Bengal. Located in India’s northeast, the area is famous for its scenic beauty, tea plantations and paddy fields. While the region’s fertile soil makes it ideal for a variety of crops, it is almost entirely dependent on rainfall for irrigation, like anywhere else in the world.

To reduce their dependence on the monsoons, India’s farmers have taken 12 million electricity connections and 9 million diesel pump sets with which they pump up groundwater for irrigation.

Although agriculture’s share of India’s economy is declining—it contributes to less than 15% of India’s GDP—it still employs 50% of the country’s workforce. Not surprisingly, perhaps, up to 20% of all the electricity used in India is for agriculture, mostly for irrigation. In some states, this can account for as much as 30-50% of all the electricity used in the state.

There are many states where power for agricultural purposes is highly subsidized, and this, combined with an unreliable supply of electricity, often causes farmers to leave their pumps on all the time. This wastes both electricity and water, with too much energy being used and too much groundwater being extracted, often way more water than needed. 

Since more than half of India’s cultivated land is yet to be irrigated, a business-as-usual scenario will lead to a huge rise in India’s energy needs for agriculture alone.

But there is an alternative—solar energy.

With decreasing solar modules prices (70% in the last 4 years), solar pumps are fast becoming a viable financial solution for irrigation.

However, there are several questions about the use of solar pumps that need to be answered:

Won’t solar pumps only make farmers more lax about using energy resources and wasting groundwater?

More than dust in Delhi

Mark Roberts's picture
smog in delhi
The smog over Delhi. Photo credit: Jean-Etienne Minh-Duy Poirrier / Creative Commons

Urbanization provides the countries of South Asia with the opportunity to transform their economies to join the ranks of richer nations. But to reap the benefits of urbanization, nations must address the challenges it poses. Growing urban populations put pressure on a city’s infrastructure; they increase the demand for basic services, land and housing, and they add stress to the environment.
Of all these congestion forces, one of the most serious for health and human welfare is ambient air pollution from vehicle emissions and the burning of fossil fuels by industry and households, according to the World Bank report, Leveraging Urbanization in South Asia: Managing Spatial Transformation for Prosperity and Livability.”
Particularly harmful are high concentrations of fine particulate matter, especially that of 2.5 microns or less in diameter (PM2.5). They can penetrate deep into the lungs, increasing the likelihood of asthma, lung cancer, severe respiratory illness, and heart disease.
Data released by the World Health Organization (WHO) in May 2014 shows Delhi to have the most polluted air of any city in the world, with an annual mean concentration of PM2.5 of 152.6 μg/m3 . That is more than 15 times greater than the WHO’s guideline value and high enough to make Beijing’s air—known for its bad quality—look comparatively clean.

But Delhi is far from unique among South Asia’s cities.

Digital highways to loop South Asia together

Piyush Bagaria's picture

Computer course at a Polytechnic Institute

This blog is part of of the series South Asia Youth Voices on regional integration. The views expressed are those of the authors. 

The 21st century world lives on optical fibers, and with an active base of 1.49 billion monthly users, Facebook would today be the most populous country in the world. The digital revolution presents an opportunity to transcend geographical borders toward greater regional integration in South Asia. And youth, empowered by internet and the smartphone, can override traditional boundaries and historical prejudices.

In a snap: What the World Bank is doing in South Asia

Alexander Ferguson's picture
Afghan Woman in factory
Afghan woman in factory. Credit: World Bank

Need to know how sustained infrastructure investments could boost Bangladesh’s economy? How the delay in implementing key reforms on the domestic front, a weak trade performance and the recent slowdown in rural wage growth pose risks to growth in India? Or how Pakistan could achieve sustained and inclusive growth through reforms in energy and taxation, and increasing investment?

There is a one-stop place to find out what the World Bank is doing in your country and what it thinks about economic prospects there.

How to accelerate the process and reduce costs for public-private partnerships? Recommended PPP contractual provisions

Mark Moseley's picture

All of the parties involved in public-private partnership (PPP) transactions – including both governments and project developers – frequently express concern over the time and expense involved in creating the legal agreements that are at the center of every PPP project. Everyone recognizes the importance of PPP contracts, since they are the documents that set out how the partnership will work – but there are constant calls for making the contractual drafting process quicker and less expensive.

In response, World Bank Group (WBG)’s PPP Group has launched the Recommended PPP Contractual Provisions Initiative, with the aim of developing recommended language on certain key provisions found in virtually every PPP contract. Under this initiative, the WBG’s PPP Group has produced the Report on Recommended PPP Contractual Provisions, 2015 Edition (the 2015 Report).  The 2015 Report was recently submitted to, and endorsed by, the G20 Infrastructure and Investment Working Group – the committee established by the G20 Group of major economies that focuses on the financing of infrastructure projects.

Shrinking ice: A potential meltdown for South Asia

Saurabh Dani's picture
View of flooded Ganges Delta
View of flooded Ganges Delta. Credit: World Bank
In mid-August, close to a 12.5 sq. km of chunk of ice separated from the Jacobshavn glacier in Greenland and tumbled down into the sea. The Jacobshavn is rumored to be the glacier that downed the Titanic. While the event was small compared to the huge ice chunk break-aways in the Antarctic, the spotlight was welcome. A few weeks back, Obama become the first US President to visit the Arctic.
Halfway across the globe, in the South Asia region, another ice-snow regime is under threat, and although less scrutinized by the media, has the potential to trigger catastrophic economic and social consequences.
The Hindu Kush-Himalayan region is widely called the third pole and in this ice-snow regime of the third pole are the origins of three mighty rivers – Ganges, Brahmaputra and the Indus that indirectly support over 700 million people across South Asia.
The ice and snow regime is among the most fragile earth systems that will be impacted massively by a changing climate and the melting and disappearing of the three poles (the Antarctic, Arctic and high-altitude mountain glaciers) will in turn exacerbate sea level rise and extreme weather patterns.

Two young Indian girls blog about their interaction with Sri Mulyani Indrawati

Apoorva Devanshi's picture

 Sri Mulyani Indrawati speaking to the students at MNIT, India
“India has the maximum number of young people and these young people will enter the labor market in the next two decades.” These words by the World Bank’s Managing Director and Chief Operating Officer Sri Mulyani Indrawati at the Malaviya National Institute of Technology campus, Jaipur, on September 23, 2015, had all of us listening with rapt attention.

How we made #OpenIndia

Ankur Nagar's picture

open india

It has been a season ripe with new ideas and shifts in the open data conversation. At the Cartagena Data Festival in April, the call for a country-led data revolution was loud and clear. Later in June at the 3rd International Open Data Conference in Ottawa there was an emphasis on the use of open data-beyond mere publishing.

Mulling on these takeaways, a logical question to ask may be: what would a country-focused data project that aims to put data to use look like?

Have you tried Open India?

A few months earlier, inspired by the “Digital India” vision, a small but agile team led by the India Team at the World Bank was working on Open India.  It’s a live, open platform for engaging with and tracking the why, what, and how of the World Bank Group’s work in India, within the context of the development challenges that India faces. At the heart of this process was data from this vast country and equally important “design thinking” to solve a clear problem.

Here is a glimpse at the journey of this in-house startup. We hope it will add to the evolving data conversation, and help make the case for design to be a part of it.  These are our lessons-learned from our journey as World Bank intrapreneurs.

Open India: Take on India’s Development Challenges
Open India: Take on India’s Development Challenges with the Wo... - The Open India app connects the dots between every public and private sector activity of the World Bank Group in India, against the context of the vast development challenges that the country faces. Use this app to track the World Bank Group’s work in your state and the development issues of your interest, and provide your ideas and feedback.

Posted by World Bank India on Friday, October 16, 2015

Pitch like a startup

India has become one of the fastest growing economies in the last decade, but remains home to a third of the world's poor. Its development challenges are massive: there is a huge infrastructure gap, it is urbanizing at an astonishing pace, and the population is set to cross 1.5 billion. The World Bank Group's Country Partnership Strategy offers an analysis and a plan to tackle these challenges. It covers a portfolio of over $25 billion, and provides a clear results chain to track the strategy’s progress.