On a recent field trip to northern Bangladesh, the smiles of Habibur, a young man working in a rice field under the scotching sun caught my attention. Habibur, 28, looked content amidst the wide green vista of fields.
I learned that his life had not been easy. His father died when Habibur was around four years old, and the family had no land. His young widowed mother started working as a day laborer to raise her only child. Habibur began working too in his mid-teens. Mother and son struggled, but they managed to save some money. They first bought a cow, and later Habibur leased land for rice cultivation. This is a common practice in rural Bangladesh, where the yield is divided between the farmer and the owner of the land.
I just returned to Vietnam after attending the World Bank’s first-ever , a series of events that brought together city leaders from across Asia and beyond to explore innovative approaches to urban planning and management.
A topic that cut across all these areas is flood risk management, which was featured extensively during the launch event of the Global Platform for Sustainable Cities. I had the opportunity to learn more about the role of green mitigation infrastructure in integrated urban flood risk management, with lessons from Japan, Korea, Sri Lanka, Senegal, and the Netherlands. In these countries, green structures such as retarding basins, permeable pavement, and rainwater storage or infiltration trench have complemented conventional structural measures to reduce flood risk in a cost-effective manner.
Before the ongoing war, Yemen was already among those countries facing the most serious water shortages: experts warned that its groundwater would be depleted by 2017. The war has greatly exacerbated the situation as, along with instability, the absence of government, and spread of armed conflicts, the arbitrary pumping of groundwater has increased while government utilities like water supplies have collapsed.
Water covers 70% of Earth’s surface, but if you live in Sana’a, Sao Paolo, California, or the many other areas where drought or chronic water scarcity has affected daily life, you know that abundance can be relative.
This image from the US Geological Survey shows that only a tiny fraction of Earth’s water is the accessible freshwater we need to live, grow food, sustain the environment, and power our cities and jobs.
Growing cities and populations and a changing climate are placing unprecedented pressures on water. According to the World Economic Forum, water crises are among the top risks to global economic growth. For at least 650 million people, even the water they are able to find is unsafe.
But this also offers an opportunity to provide safer water and better manage our water resources for a more resilient future.
This year, #worldwaterday focuses on the connection between water and jobs, and these connections primarily fall under two categories: productivity and sustainability.
Two questions worth debating are whether we might soon see a renaissance in public private partnerships (PPPs) in urban water supply and services, and whether PPPs are a good way for water companies in developing countries to reduce their staggering level of water losses.
These pressing issues demand our attention because an inordinately high level of water losses – up to 50 percent of water entering the distribution system – burdens water companies and customers in developing countries. More precisely, the culprit is “non-revenue water” (NRW): both physical losses (leakage and bursts) and commercial losses (poor customer databases, meter inaccuracies, and illegal connections).
The consensus is that there is no lack of technical solutions to the NRW problem. In the concluding sessions of a recent conference on water losses in Bangalore, India (February 1–3), organized by the International Water Association (IWA), experts spoke of the need for a “change in mind-set” if the problem of NRW is to be given sufficient attention by politicians and utility managers. True enough, but how exactly do you do that?
Climate change imposes stark challenges in West and Central Africa, where droughts and floods are already frequent. Vast portions of the region’s populations are poor, dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods, and unable to prepare and respond adequately to extreme weather events. Weak monitoring and information systems, absence of proper infrastructure, and limited governance capacity render countries in the region unable to manage their climate risks, threatening food and energy security, economic development, ecosystem health, and overall regional stability.
Ahead of World Water Day 2016, Lead Disaster Risk Management Specialist Christoph Pusch explains how the World Bank helps client countries anticipate, respond to, and recover from El Niño-related shocks such as droughts or floods.
Selilah stares out over a landscape she has inhabited for 70 years. In the valley below, deep gullies scar the slopes where rains have carried away the soil. Living with three of her four sons, she is struggling to make ends meet in this part of Sidama Zone, Ethiopia, where, she says, there used to be a forest more than 40 years ago.
Now most trees have been felled and water is scarce. Selilah spends two hours a day collecting her two jerrycans (50 liters) from a neighboring kebele (neighborhood), but when that source fails she has to buy water from a vendor at ETB 6 (30 US Cents) per a jerrycan, a huge cut into her income.
In the last 10 years, she says, the rains have changed – they are lighter than before and more infrequent. As a result, production from her meager plot – just 0.25 ha – is declining. After her husband died more than a decade ago, she now only makes ends meet through the daily wage-labor income of her sons. Like many others, Selilah is on the frontline of climate change in a landscape under increasing pressure.