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Sustainable Communities

Marrakech solved the water riddle — through wastewater

Stephane Dahan's picture
Marrakech, Morocco, 1950s: Situated 160 miles south of Casablanca, and 100 miles inland on the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, the Red City is being supplied as it has been for centuries with water through an intricate, self-sufficient network of “Khettaras” — man-made underground tunnels that captured runoff from the flanks of the Atlas.

Water utilities in Africa: How will they cope with a rapidly growing, thirsty population?

Caroline van den Berg's picture
Africa’s population is growing fast. Very fast. Sub-Saharan Africa is currently home to more than 1.2 billion people, and it is estimated that another 1 billion will be added by 2050. Economic and political instability, climate change and overall decline of employment in agriculture has accelerated urban migration. In 2016, almost 40 percent of the population in this region was living in cities compared to 31 percent in 2000.

The economic benefits of LGBTI inclusion

Georgia Harley's picture
Civil Rights Defenders/Photo: Vesna Lalic
Civil Rights Defenders/Photo: Vesna Lalic
Discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people is an all too familiar story. Members of this community are frequent targets of violence and other human rights abuses, and often face prejudice and hardship at work, in their communities, and at home.

Action is needed to address these problems and ensure that everyone – regardless of race, gender, age, sexual orientation, or gender identity - has an equal chance to live a healthy and prosperous life
This is not only the right thing to do, it also makes economic sense: a growing body of evidence indicates that discrimination against LGBTI people has a negative economic impact on society.

Social development and the global community: Why the legitimacy of the change process matters

Roxanne Bauer's picture

This is the first post in a series of six in which Michael Woolcock, Lead Social Development Specialist at the World Bank and lecturer in public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, discusses critical ideas within the field of Social Development.

Both globalization and international development bring a wide range of people into contact with one another, linking distant communities to transnational networks and opening up spaces to new ideas. Alongside the state, multilateral development banks (MDBs), intergovernmental organizations (IGOs), civil society organizations (CSOs), private contractors, and development professionals converge on project sites, often interacting directly with local communities.

This influx of people brings global values concerning trade, democratic governance, human rights, and environmental sustainability— among many others— in contact with local conceptions of these values. This can create friction when international actors push for global liberal values that local communities are unfamiliar with or when they disregard traditional patterns of discourse. The tussle over values also occurs within states as district and national communities debate how development should progress. Urbanization, immigration, and the arts, for example, can all be experienced differently by various groups within a society.

Michael Woolcock asserts that, “putting a very strong premium on the legitimacy of the change process” is critical to a credible and accountable development intervention. Further, he states that if multi-level stakeholder engagement can be sustained over time, “then a lot of the process of dealing with contention can be acquired and incorporated into the way in which systems get managed.”
 
Michael Woolcock

The “plastic bridge”: a low-cost, high-impact solution to address climate risk

Oliver Whalley's picture
Also available in: Français
Photo: Anthony Doudt/Flickr
Bridges are critical links in the transport network. In their position across waterways, they are exposed to the full effects of flooding and landslides, and are often the first pieces of infrastructure to be damaged in the event of a disaster. They also typically take weeks or months to repair.  Besides causing expensive damage to the infrastructure itself, disruptions in connectivity also have a much broader impact on economic productivity and people’s ability to access essential services. As many places are expected to witness more intense and frequent rainfall as a result of climate change, the risk to bridges will only worsen: more rainfall will lead to bigger river flows and more damage to bridges, especially those designed to handle smaller storms.

At each end of a bridges is a structure which supports the weight of the deck. These are known as abutments, and they are often the first part of the bridge to fail. Blockage of the main channel by debris can cause water to look for the path of least resistance around the sides of the bridges, thus placing the abutments at risk.

Traditional bridge construction requires the installation of piles for the foundations of abutments—a lengthy and expensive process that involves specialist materials, skills and equipment.

But there is another promising solution: Geosynthetic Reinforced Soil (GRS) abutments. These allow for rapid and resilient construction of bridge abutments using locally available materials, without specialized equipment. With GRS, bridges can be constructed in as little as five days (Von Handorf, 2013) and at a cost 30-50% lower than traditional approaches (Tonkin and Taylor, 2016) .

GRS abutments are based on ‘geogrids,’ a high density mesh made out of polyethylene (plastic). Layers of soil and geogrid are combined to create a solid foundation for the bridge deck. Construction can be completed with basic earthmoving and compaction equipment, and a range of local fill materials can be used with guidance from geotechnical specialists.

Women, cities, and opportunity: Making the case for secure land rights

Klaus Deininger's picture

Also available in: Français 

Land and property lie at the center of many of today’s pressing development challenges. Consider that at most 10% of land in rural Africa is reliably registered. At this week‘s annual Land and Poverty Conference here at the World Bank, we will hear how this vast gap in documentation of land gap blunts access to opportunities and key services for millions of the world’s poorest people, contributes to gender inequality, and undermines environmental sustainability.

In Brazil, electricity meters transform lives and enlighten businesses

Christophe de Gouvello's picture

Buyers agreed to destroy obsolete equipment to prevent its reuse in the power distribution network

What do electricity meters and mobile phones have in common? Answer: both are present in millions of Brazilian homes and both become electronic waste as soon as they are discarded. Though they do not contain heavy metals, their materials pose risks from the moment they are discarded in waste dumps or landfills.
 

KIAT Guru: Engaging communities to improve education in Indonesia

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
Indonesia successfully reduced its poverty rate over the last two decades. Yet, this growth was accompanied by one of the fastest increases in inequality in East Asia and the Pacific.  While the poverty rate in urban areas has fallen to 8.2%, in remote and rural areas it remains around 14%.

This inequality is exacerbated by the persistent poor quality of public services, such as education, in rural and remote areas. While various government initiatives have improved access to education, quality and equity remain major challenges for those in rural and remote areas.
 
To address these issues, the World Bank has partnered with the government of Indonesia to launch a pilot project called “KIAT Guru,” which aims to improve teacher presence, teacher service quality, and student learning outcomes, while enhancing community engagement and participation in remote areas.

“We [have] two different mechanisms. One of them is community empowerment… The community develops a service agreement with schools so they can agree upon the five to seven indicators that they think are a priority,” says Dewi Susanti, Senior Social Development Specialist, who leads the project.

In this video, Dewi Susanti and World Bank Senior Director Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez (@Ede_WBG) discuss the KIAT Guru project and the lessons learned from its early stages.  
 
KIAT Guru project

China, economic reform and the role of foreign experts

Abhas Jha's picture
Group photos of the participants of the 1985 Bashan river cruise conference
Photo: copyright © / World Bank

I am a policy wonk. I have spent my entire professional career (first in the Government of India and then in the World Bank) watching up close how policy choices are made, how political processes play out and on how institutions and people form coalitions for or against any change based on their incentives. I have also worked in China for close to 8 years, and like so many before me, have fallen in love with the beautiful country, its people and civilizational depth and continue to be amazed at the sheer pace, scale and energy of the massive changes the country has undergone, lifting more than 800 million of its citizens out of poverty.
 
I just finished reading a majestic book entitled “Unlikely Partners: Chinese Reformers, Western Economists and the Making of Global China” that, in a sense, brings the two parts of my professional work together.

Climate change is forcing us to reinvent rural transport for the better

Ashok Kumar's picture
Photo: Ravisankar Pandian/Flickr
India is in the midst of implementing PMGSY, a $35-billion national level Rural Road Program designed to provide basic road access to rural communities. The World Bank is supporting PMGSY through a series of lending operations ($1.8 billion in Bank funding) and significant knowledge support. A key element of the Bank’s support has been to integrate a “climate and green growth lens” into these efforts in cost-effective ways.

How is “green growth” benefiting India? One important dimension of that effort has been  the use of environmentally optimized road designs, which has resulted in quality infrastructure using local and marginal materials, providing both economic and environmental benefits. Where available, sand deposits accumulated from frequent floods, industrial by-products, and certain types of plastic, mining, and construction waste have been used to good effect. Designs that use such materials have been about 25% cheaper to build, on average, than those requiring commonly used rock aggregates. The environmental benefits of using the above materials, in terms of addressing the big disposal problem of such materials and reducing the consumption of scarce natural stone aggregates, are as significant as the cost savings.

A second “green growth” dimension has been focusing investments on the “core” network, i.e. the network India needs to develop in order to provide access to all villages. Relative to a total rural road network of about 3.3 million kilometers, the core network that falls under PMGSY stretches over only 1.1 million kilometers. Prioritizing construction and maintenance on those critical road links will bring down costs as well as the associated carbon footprint.

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