At the heels of the Sustainable Development Summit at the United Nations in New York this past weekend, an operations team from the World Bank’s Water Global Practice (GP) is meeting with international development partners and African implementing partner organizations in Zambia this week as part of the fourth annual advisory committee meeting of the Cooperation in International Waters in Africa (CIWA) program, with deep commitment and support from the Governments of the United Kingdom, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and the Netherlands. The timing is coincidental, but symbolically significant: water management will be key to achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which set the wider global development agenda for the next 15 years. In much of the world, managing water resources means working across borders in transboundary river basins, adding complexity to realizing SDG #6, to “ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.”
The CIWA program is one vehicle by which the World Bank and its Water GP contribute to the implementation of SDG #6 in Sub-Saharan Africa. Moreover, the results of the program to date – US$8.9 billion in infrastructure investments influenced that will potentially benefit 48.6 million people – have contributed to progress on a number of other SDGs, demonstrating the strategic value of targeting water development interventions at the transboundary level. Here are three ways in which the World Bank’s work in transboundary waters in Africa advances the SDGs:
SDG #2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
As the UN notes, Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest prevalence of hunger in the world. Efficient irrigation systems are necessary for climate-resilient agricultural production, yet only five percent of the region’s cultivated land is irrigated. The agricultural sector is also the main source of employment in much of the continent: in Ghana, for example, agricultural production from the Volta River Basin contributes to 30 percent of the country’s GDP and employs 53 percent of the population.
In May 2015, the World Bank Board approved a US$10.94 million project co-funded by CIWA and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to improve cooperative water resources management among the six riparian countries in the Volta River basin. By restoring water flows through river bank rehabilitation and implementing water-conservation techniques, the project is expected to result in a total incremental production of about 21,800 tons of diversified agricultural products per year, enhancing the food security of about 50,000 people.
SDG #7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
The World Bank and the UN have made renewable energy a central pillar of their Sustainable Energy For All (SE4All) initiative, which will play a leading role in implementing SDG #7. Hydropower is one of the most important and widely used sources of renewable energy in the world, and it is the main source of electricity in Africa. Yet current installed capacity in Africa represents only 10 percent of the sector’s potential, with urban electrification at 60 percent and rural electrification at a mere 14 percent. Rapid urbanization and industrialization are putting further strain on the continent’s current energy resources.
The World Bank is currently supporting the sustainable development of the hydropower potential of the Zambezi River, which accounts for half of the installed hydropower capacity in southern Africa. CIWA was central to initiating the preparation for the Batoka Gorge Hydro-Electric Scheme (HES), which will ultimately secure the energy needs of more than 1.2 million households equally split between the two countries. The World Bank Group, together with other development partners, is also supporting the US$294 million rehabilitation of the Kariba Dam on the Zambezi River, thus securing against a potentially catastrophic failure of the dam and associated power production and flood control capabilities that could affect up to 4.5 million people.
SDG #13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
Investing in resilience to climate change is a sine qua non for meeting the SDGs by 2030. The hydrological cycle is one of the primary pathways through which climate change impacts development: increasing uncertainty about future water availability constrains countries’ abilities to manage the extreme weather and disaster-related risks resulting from climate change.
Adapting to extreme climate variability necessitates transboundary cooperation among countries on sharing hydrological and other data and designing effective region-wide responses. In response to client demand, the World Bank is supporting countries sharing the Niger River and Lake Chad basins in using the upcoming United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) conference in Paris to draw attention to their climate change-related investment needs. The information and capacity-building work of CIWA and other regional trust funds provides key support to the World Bank Group’s US$11.8 million climate investment portfolio, and will continue to do so in the crucial years ahead.
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