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Environment

Thank goodness, we had an extra bridge in stock!

Malaika Becoulet's picture
Credit: Joshua Stevens/NASA Earth Observatory
On October 4, 2016, category 4 Hurricane Matthew struck the southern part of Haiti. Strong winds and rain triggered heavy flooding and landslides that resulted in 500 fatalities, along with widespread infrastructure damage and economic loss. The hurricane caused the collapse of the Ladigue Bridge, a vital asset connecting the southern peninsula of Haiti to the capital city and the rest of the country. The collapse left 1.4 million people completely isolated, making it extremely hard to deliver the aid and humanitarian assistance they needed. Overall damage and losses were equivalent to 32% of GDP, with transport accounting for almost a fifth of the total.
 
Haiti is among the countries that are most vulnerable to natural disasters including hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes—the result of a combination of factors that include high exposure to natural hazards, vulnerable infrastructure, environmental degradation, institutional fragility, and a lack of adequate investment in resilience. In Haiti, 80% of people and goods are transported by road. First aid and humanitarian resources, often concentrated in Port-au-Prince, need to transit through congested and sometimes inaccessible roads to reach affected areas. In that context, strengthening and building resilient infrastructure is key.
 
Since 2008, the World Bank has supported the reconstruction of 15 major bridges and stabilized 300 kilometers of roads to enhance the resilience of Haiti’s transport network. One of the most significant innovations that came out of this effort was the adoption of standardized emergency bridges that can be assembled within 2- 3 months from pre-designed and interchangeable components.

An ode to the lady in blue in Kassala State, Sudan

Dora N. Cudjoe's picture
The Sudan Sustainable Natural Resource Management Project aims to transform livelihoods in Sudan villages. Photo: EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations/FlickR

On a beautiful fall afternoon in 2017, I visited a “female only” village in Telkouk locality, Kassala State, Sudan. There, a woman dressed in blue caught my attention. We were wearing the same color that day, and I soon found that she and I shared a few other things in common.

Five ways cities can curb plastic waste

Silpa Kaza's picture

As the world observes World Environment Day this week, we should be mindful that there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish by 2050 if nothing is done, according to the Ellen & MacArthur Foundation.
 
The negative impacts that plastic is having on the environment and human health is profoundly evident:
  • Respiratory issues are increasing because of air pollution from burning plastic.
  • Animal lifespans are shortened because of consuming plastic.
  • Littered plastic is clogging drains and causing floods.
  • And unmanaged plastic is contaminating our precious oceans and waterways…

Celebrating World Environment Day and building resilience in Freetown, Sierra Leone

Robert Reid's picture
Samking Koihinah Braima, deputy minister of Agriculture and Forestry, plants a tree on behalf of President Julius Maada Bio. Photo: Asad Naveed/World Bank

To celebrate World Environment Day, hundreds of Freetonians came together to plant a tree in honor of the more than 1,000 people killed and missing after devastating landslides and floods tore through Freetown less than a year ago. The landslide and flood waters ripped through the capital city with tremendous energy, destroying everything in its path. It was reported that a huge wave of boulders, building debris and mud cascaded down the river channel immediately after the landslide. The disaster affected more than 6,000 people and caused significant destruction and damage to critical infrastructure.

Five things you can do to end plastic pollution

Anjali Acharya's picture
Plastic straws are among the top items of marine plastics found around the world, and they’re generally not recyclable. © Kanittha Boon/Shutterstock
Plastic straws are among the top items of marine plastics found around the world, and they’re generally not recyclable. © Kanittha Boon/Shutterstock

The news headlines are grim. A male pilot whale dies on a Thai beach having swallowed 80 plastics bags; images of turtles stuck in six-pack plastic rings; a sad photo of a tiny seahorse clinging to a plastic ear-bud goes viral. Plastic products wash up daily on beaches worldwide –from Indonesia to coastal west Africa, and waterways in cities are increasingly clogged with plastic waste.

But the world is taking note and countries, the private sector, and communities are starting to act. From bans and taxes on various single-use plastics, to investments in waste collection, and policies on reduced plastics packaging, to beach clean-ups. We are trying to break the addiction to plastics, and contribute to healthier lives and a healthier planet.

This year, World Environment Day focuses on “Beating Plastic Pollution”. ­­The World Bank is contributing to this effort, using our suite of lending instruments and policy dialogue with key countries and cities to help identify and finance solutions to address the marine plastics issue. For example, the World Bank is a long term strategic investor in the improvement of municipal solid waste management systems that, if not correctly managed, are a major contributor to the ocean plastics problem. Since 2000, the World Bank has invested over $4.5 billion to help improve more than 300 solid waste management programs to reduce pollution leakage, including plastics, into our environment. The Bank is also studying the flow of plastics into the ocean through a series of plastics pollution hotspot analyses to prioritize investments and look for quick wins.
 
But it is going to take more than building better solid waste management systems. Everyone needs to be on board to solve this problem and individual actions count.
 
Here are five things YOU can do—starting TODAY ­—to end plastic pollution­­:

The miracle of mangroves for coastal protection in numbers

Michael W. Beck's picture
© Ursula Meissner/The Nature Conservancy
© Ursula Meissner/The Nature Conservancy

The North Atlantic hurricane season officially opens June 1, and there are predictions that storms this year could be worse than average again. That would be bad since last year was the costliest year on record for coastal storms. Communities and countries across the Caribbean and SE USA were particularly hard hit. The need for resilient solutions to reduce these risks is paramount.

There has been growing though largely anecdotal evidence that mangroves and other coastal habitats can play important roles in defending coastlines. Nonetheless it has been difficult to convince most governments and businesses (e.g., insurance, hotels) to invest in these natural defenses in the absence of rigorous valuations of these benefits.

So in 2016 The Nature Conservancy teamed with the World Bank and scientists from the public, private and academic sectors to identify how to rigorously value the flood protection benefits from coastal habitats. In short, we recommended that we value this ecosystem service by adopting tools and from the engineering, risk and insurance sectors and following an Expected Damage Function (EDF) approach. This approach assesses the difference in flooding and flood damages with and without coastal habitats such as mangroves across the entire storm frequency distribution (e.g., 1-in-10, -25 and -100 year storms).

Planned Relocations: Learning from Latin American Experiences

Elizabeth Ferris's picture
When landslides destroy communities or sea levels rise how do governments move people out of harm’s way?  “Planned relocations” is the term being used to describe the process of moving people in order to protect them from disasters or from the effects of environmental change.

The transition to low-carbon buses in Mexico: It’s not (only) about the money

Alejandro Hoyos Guerrero's picture
Credit: Taís Policanti/WRI
Transitioning from diesel buses to cleaner technologies can significantly contribute to tackling air pollution in cities and reducing the carbon footprint of urban transport. As alternatives to diesel are getting more and more viable, many governments and development partners are encouraging bus operators to make the switch, mostly by offering financial incentives such as example 1 or example 2.

However, after promoting cleaner buses in Mexico for five years, we have seen firsthand that financial incentives alone are not enough. Specifically, there are three main obstacles that impede the expansion of cleaner bus fleets, and should be addressed appropriately.

New technologies and risk aversion

In general, private bus operators tend to be very risk averse when it comes to experimenting with new vehicle technologies. This is not exactly surprising: according to our own calculations from different projects in Latin America, variables related to vehicle performance—like fuel and maintenance—make up over 2/3 of costs over the life cycle of a conventional diesel bus. In that context, operators who are not familiar with the performance of new vehicle technologies can understandably perceive the transition to a cleaner fleet as a huge financial gamble.

Intermodal connectivity in the Western Balkans: What’s on the menu?

Romain Pison's picture
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As in most other regions, trucks reign supreme on freight transport across the Western Balkans, a region that encompasses six countries including: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, FYR Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia.

The domination of road transport in the freight sector comes with several adverse consequences, including unpredictable journey times, high logistics costs, congestion, as well as high levels of pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. To address this, our team is looking at ways to redirect part of the freight traffic in the Western Balkans region away from roads, and onto more efficient, greener modes such as rail or inland waterways.

You may think we’re trying to bite off more than we can chew here. After all, even advanced economies with state-of-the-art rail infrastructure have been struggling to increase and sustain rail freight transport.

However, as evidenced by the Global Competitiveness and Logistics Performance Indexes, there is strong potential to close gaps in the quality of the Western Balkans transport systems or custom clearing processes. The region has also experienced sustained economic growth (higher, for instance, than OECD countries), while its geographic position makes it a strategic link between Western and Eastern markets, especially considering Turkey’s rail freight developments and global connectivity initiatives.

So where should we start?

What Super Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines told us about building back better

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
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The Philippines is increasingly exposed and vulnerable to natural hazards.
 
Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), which struck the country in 2013, was considered one of the strongest tropical storms ever to make landfall (at 380 kilometer / hour wind gusts). It caused over 6,300 fatalities and affected 1,472,251 families in 171 cities and municipalities across the 14 provinces in 6 regions. Total damage and loss was estimated at $12.9 billion (Reconstruction Assistance on Yolanda 2013).
 
The World Bank assessed the post-Yolanda rehabilitation and recovery efforts, and this has resulted in the following recommendations:

 


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