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Sustainable Communities

An important week for infrastructure & multilateral cooperation

Sunny Kaplan's picture



Against the backdrop of catastrophic natural disasters that struck in Indonesia, the World Bank Group and IMF Annual Meetings took place last week in Bali. No scene could be more illustrative of the fragility of infrastructure in the face of more extreme and frequent weather events—and the urgent need for meticulous planning, with an eye for resilience.

In the line of fire: lessons from a California architect on rebuilding resiliently

Sunny Kaplan's picture


Photo: Tony Salas | Flickr Creative Commons

In my home state of California in the United States, major drought-fueled wildfires tore across the state in the latter half of 2017 setting records for both the state’s deadliest fire, as well as the largest fire. Wildfire season is back in 2018 with the most destructive year ever—currently more than 13,000 firefighters are battling 9 large blazes that have damaged or destroyed over 2,000 homes or buildings and scorched over 730,000 acres of land.
 
The Mendocino Complex fire in Northern California recently broke the state’s previous record for largest fire, spreading furiously due to heat, wind, and years of drought. 

California’s Governor Jerry Brown said this is becoming the new normal…where fires threaten people’s lives, property, neighborhoods and, of course, billions and billions of dollars. Many point to climate change as the driver for weather conditions fueling most of the wildfires. July was the hottest on record for the state, and extreme weather is causing larger and more destructive fires across the whole western United States.

Under this “new normal” how do designers and city planners even begin to rebuild quality infrastructure affordably, resiliently, and sustainably?

Yes they can: SMEs filling the infrastructure gap in fragile countries

Yolanda Tayler's picture


Photo: Trocaire | Flickr Creative Commons

In war-torn post-1991 Somalia, running water was a scarce commodity, to the misfortune of millions of people. Members of local communities rose to the occasion, “pooling” consortia of companies to fill the gap in water provisions. Eight public-private partnerships (PPPs) were formed through these consortia, benefiting 70,000 people in the Puntland and Somaliland regions of the country.  

As demonstrated in the Somalia case, infrastructure needs are substantial in fragility, conflict and violence-affected (FCV) contexts—especially for recovery and reconstruction in war-torn areas. Yet often there is insufficient public sector funding to address such needs, compounded by lack of interest on the part of large private sector firms, who may not even be on the scene. In such FCV contexts, small and medium enterprises (SMEs), making up a substantial share of the private sector, may be critical to filling the infrastructure services gap.

GIF: making climate-smart infrastructure bankable

Michael Tran's picture


Photo: only_kim / Shutterstock.com 

There are many drivers of climate change, but few would disagree that energy infrastructure built according to “business-as-usual” standards is a major one. Meeting the lofty goals set at the 2015 Paris Climate Accords requires powering our homes, businesses, and government agencies with a cleaner mix of energy that includes more renewable sources. It also requires promoting standards that encourage energy efficiency—for example, for appliances or building codes—as a low-cost and high-impact way to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. 
 
The Global Infrastructure Facility (GIF) is playing a positive role by preparing bankable, climate-smart projects that help countries build low-carbon energy infrastructure and encourage greater energy-efficiency measures. The GIF both drives and leverages private sector investments in climate-smart projects by promoting good governance and standardization in project preparation and has a sizeable portfolio of climate-smart projects in the pipeline.

'Build and operate' increasingly common in social infrastructure

Simile Karasavidis's picture


Photo:  Northern Beaches Hospital | New South Wales Ministry of Health

The way that social infrastructure is being built and paid for is changing. New healthcare facilities, prisons, and public housing have long been constructed under public-private partnerships (PPPs), but the PPP model is now stretching into the operation of the facilities.

Called “operator-led PPPs”, this approach puts the private sector in charge not just of the construction of infrastructure but of the operation of services afterwards for a defined period. For instance, in a hospital PPP the private company would provide clinical services such as x-rays as well as the building. This is also known as an outcomes-based PPP.

This approach transfers operational risks from the state body to the private partner, but the state still retains oversight of the quality of service through key performance indicators, service criteria, and performance standards. Financial penalties are put in place for failure to meet the required standards.

Promoting bankable PPPs in Brazilian municipalities

Fernando Freire Dutra's picture


Photo: Gordon | Flickr Creative Commons

Public-private partnerships (PPPs) in Brazil have been around since 2004 when federal legislation established the legal framework to make them possible. Since then, approximately 100 PPP contracts have been signed in Brazil, totaling almost 160 billion Brazilian reais ($50 billion) in private investment in numerous sectors, including hospitals, schools, public lighting, sanitation, solid waste management, sport arenas, public buildings, urban transport, and roads. Some notable successes include the Belo Horizonte schools PPP, which supports non-pedagogical services in 51 schools, and the 298-bed Bahia Subúrbio Hospital, which opened in 2010.

Low-carbon infrastructure: an essential solution to climate change?

Deblina Saha's picture


Photo: Felix_Broennimann | Pixabay Creative Commons
 
Infrastructure is a key driver for growth, employment, and better quality of life in emerging markets and developing economies (EMDEs). But this comes at a cost. Approximately 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions come from infrastructure construction and operations such as power plants, buildings, and transport. The Overseas Development Institute estimates that over 720 million people could be pushed back into extreme poverty by 2050 as a result of climate impacts, while the World Health Organization projects that the number of deaths attributable to the harmful effects of emissions from key infrastructure industries will rise from the current 150,000 per year to 250,000 by 2030.
 
Does this mean we need to build less infrastructure? No. But part of the solution lies in low-carbon infrastructure.

This International Women’s Day: let’s design infrastructure better

Caren Grown's picture


Photo: Carol Mitchell | Flickr Creative Commons

As the backbone of development, infrastructure provides vital support for the twin goals of poverty reduction and shared prosperity. Considering the different needs, roles, and responsibilities of men and women in infrastructure design makes the achievement of these goals more sustainable.

Women and men face constraints both as beneficiaries and producers of infrastructure services. For example, there can be inequitable access to roads, financing for electricity connections, or clean water. There are also inequities in the infrastructure business value chain: Do utilities have a balance of women and men on technical and leadership teams? Is there diversity on boards, with regulators or policy makers? Are women-owned firms in supply chains?

Why did the elephant cross the road?

Sunny Kaplan's picture


Photo: Phubadee Na Songkhla / Shutterstock

In the early 1950s, carving out a road in the newly-created Tsavo National Park in Kenya involved “hacking through scrubland,” according to Dame Daphne Sheldrick in her memoir, Love, Life, and Elephants. Founder of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, an organization that rescues orphaned elephants and rhinos, she describes the park landscape as “inhospitable country, covered in an entanglement of dense scrub vegetation infested with tsetse fly...” but “known for its diversity of indigenous species, including fearsome lions, breeding herds of elephants, and thousands of black rhinos.”
 
Today, the two-lane Mombasa-Nairobi highway (A109) dissects the park to form Tsavo East and Tsavo West. This causes problems for wildlife. Richard Leakey, Chairman of Kenya’s Wildlife Service, says that 18 elephants have been killed from collisions with trucks, and other wildlife become roadkill on a regular basis.

Learning from Japan: PPPs for infrastructure resilience

Sanae Sasamori's picture
Also available in: Español | 日本語 


Photo: MediaFOTO/PIXTA

In March 2011, the Great East Japan Earthquake struck Japan, unleashing a tsunami that left some 20,000 people dead or missing. Sendai, the capital city of Miyagi Prefecture and a regional economic hub, was heavily affected by the disaster. About 500,000 residents in the city lost access to water, and the city’s primary wastewater treatment plant was completely submerged by the tsunami. Also, the tsunami damaged 325 kilometers of coastal railway assets and flooded about 100 kilometers of national highway in the Tohoku region, leading to the immediate closure of inland transport access to the devastated towns in need of assistance.
 
Four years later, while the recovery effort from the earthquake and tsunami was still underway, a private consortium signed a 30-year concession to operate Sendai Airport, making it the first state-owned airport in Japan operated by the private sector. This success was welcomed by policymakers and public-private partnership (PPP) practitioners with surprise—how could it be possible for a private operator to make a long-term investment decision in such a disaster-prone region?

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