Improving people’s lives is more than offering services. It requires people to be active participants in development, demanding services and products that add value to their lives and engaging in behaviors that are conducive to increasing their own welfare. Health prevention is a case in point.
At our HIV Impact Evaluation Workshop in Cape Town, South Africa in 2009, I listened to Nancy Padian, a medical researcher at the Women’s Global Health Imperative, presenting a systematic review of random control trials testing the effectiveness of HIV prevention campaigns.
The study she presented explained how three dozen HIV prevention campaigns had failed to change sexual behavior and reduce HIV incidence.
The presentation gave us pause. The review dismissed the communication campaigns as an ineffective means to change behavior and slow down the HIV epidemic.
A closer look revealed that the campaigns lacked inspiring narratives, and were communicated through outdated and uninteresting outlets such as billboards and leaflets.
The question we asked ourselves was: Can we do this differently?
In 2014, the island was listed as one of the least urbanized countries in the World Urbanization Prospects (WUP), with less than 20 percent of the population in urban areas. By 2050, WUP projected that number would rise to only 30 percent.
Does this mean we still have to worry about the country’s urbanization? The short answer is yes.
This is, after all, an island nation with one of the highest population densities, complex and evolving social systems and intricate ecosystems.
Meanwhile, urbanization, even at relatively slower pace, is still changing migration patterns, altering the way urban populations consume resources, and impacting the affordability of land and other assets.
These, in turn, are increasing the demand for resources. Growing inequality can be seen as a result of the displacement of less affluent communities, while the loss of important ecosystems has negatively affected resilience and sustainability.
While I welcome criticism and comments on the Doing Business (DB) report—or any other data and research product of the World Bank, for that matter—I find Justin Sandefur’s and Divyanshi Wadhwa’s (SW) recent blog posts on DB in Chile and India neither enlightening nor useful.
Case in point: while we may have data on vaccines given or babies born, we don’t know much about the roads that lead to the clinic. Similarly, we may get data on school attendance and passing rates of students, but we don’t know how long it takes for students to reach their schools.
Kanwar Jheel is the largest in a series of 18 wetlands spread across the Ganges flood plains in India’s north Bihar. For generations, these wetlands have been the mainstay for this densely populated region, enabling families to farm the fertile soil and fish in nutrient-rich waters.
During the monsoon, when the River Burhi Gandak - a Ganges tributary - overflows its banks, the wetlands absorb the runoff, protecting this extremely flood-prone region. When the rains are over, the water shrinks to one tenth the size, exposing marshes and grasslands that create a mosaic of habitats for a wide variety of flora and fauna.
In winter, over 60 species of duck and waterfowl visit these wetlands on their annual migration routes along the Central Asian Flyway.
Sri Lanka and Maldives share much more than the tag of tourism hot spots, beautiful beaches, and similar cultural traits. Both island nations have a range of unique environments that are rich in biodiversity and serve a myriad of ecosystems functions.
Both countries are home to rich wetlands with a variety of fauna and flora that benefit the ecosystem, including flood protection, water purification, and natural air conditioning and provide food and support to local communities.
Sri Lanka has actively been working to ensure these essential ecosystems are protected. The Maldives has too commenced such great work. This work has produced a wealth of knowledge and innovations on how to manage and conserve wetlands.
Managing wetlands in Sri Lanka and Maldives
The wetland management and land use planning effort undertaken in Colombo under the World Bank-financed Metro Colombo Urban Development (MCUDP) project showcases resilience in urban land use planning and highlights how a city can become more livable by intermingling green spaces to its urban fabric. All this, while protecting wetlands and reaping the benefits of their natural ecosystem functions.
The MCUDP used robust strategies and sustainable economic models, such as wetland parks, to help save urban wetlands from threats such as encroachment and clearing. Through the Climate Change Adaptation Project (CCAP), funded by the European Union and the Government of Australia, Maldives has also taken steps to manage threats to its largest wetlands.
While the approaches to wetland management in both countries have been different there are many key lessons that can be shared.
Coming to completion in May 2018, RRCDP has improved road access to markets to at least 11 project Chiwogs (hamlets) in Samtse and Trongsa Dzongkhags – building 22.9 kilometers of farm roads and benefitting about 299 households. With the construction of new farm roads, the most commonly marketed agricultural and livestock products amongst farmers in project areas have been cardamom, vegetables, butter, cheese, and citrus, and to a lesser extent, rice, potatoes, and eggs. Additionally, beneficiaries have also reported a significant reduction in the time of travel between their households and markets – up to 8 hours in some cases! The majority of the Bhutanese population live in remote rural areas – hours, sometimes days of walking from the nearest road. They walk their children through dense forests and rivers to reach schools and health clinics; they carry their agricultural and livestock products to nearby markets on their backs – an average load of 30kg. A horse carrying a 50kg load costs approximately Nu.5 per kilogram.
The project has also supported beneficiaries in 88 Chiwogs with access to community and marketing infrastructure, such as power tiller tracks, power tiller machinery, and food bridges – with a total of 3,597 households benefitted. In Norgaygang Gewog, for example, with support from the project, the construction of 4 kilometers of power tiller track in 2016, has brought multiple benefits to the community, such as easier access to schools and healthcare in case of emergency.
There is a well-known idiom saying that you can't compare apples and oranges. But this is precisely the challenge researchers often face when it comes to measuring the jobs impact of development projects. Having standardized impact evaluation tools and methods is a milestone for private sector-led job investments, and it allows international financial institutions, development practitioners, and governments to build on existing knowledge to develop solutions. And this is precisely one of the goals that Let's Work partnership, composed of 30 different institutions, is currently pursuing; to track the number of jobs generated from private sector-led interventions, the quality of those jobs, and how inclusive those jobs are in a standardized way, so apples are compared to apples and oranges to oranges.
Cities across Nepal—and in the developing world—produce more waste than ever before, due to a spike in population and a surge in new economic activity and urbanization. Properly disposing and managing solid waste has thus become urgent for city municipalities.
As a result, landscapes and public spaces in Nepal’s urban centers are deteriorating. Less than half of the 700,000 tons of waste generated in Nepal’s cities each year is collected. Most waste is dumped without any regulation or oversight and several municipalities do not have a designated disposal site, leading to haphazard disposal of waste—often next to a river—further aggrevating the problem.
With urbanization rising, the costs of inaction are piling up and compromising people’s health and the environment. In most cases, the poor suffer the most from the resulting negative economic, environmental, and human health impacts.