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When in the eye of a storm….

Idah Z. Pswarayi-Riddihough's picture
Abandoned fishing boats lay on the banks of the dried Siyambalankkatuwa reservoir in Sri Lanka's Puttalam District, Aug. 10, 2017. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Amantha Perera
Abandoned fishing boats lay on the banks of the dried Siyambalankkatuwa reservoir in Sri Lanka's Puttalam District, Aug. 10, 2017. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Amantha Perera
This year, yet again, flooding caused by heavy monsoon rains came and receded. Meanwhile, this year alone, more than one million people have been hard hit by the worst drought in 40 years.
 
The media, with few exceptions, have moved on to other topics and a sense of calm pervades. 
 
We are in the eye of the storm -- that misleading lull before mother nature unleashes her fury once again. 
 
In Sri Lanka alone, costs from natural disasters, losses from damage to housing, infrastructure, agriculture, and from relief are estimated at LKR 50 billion (approx. USD 327 million).  The highest annual expected losses are from floods (LKR 32 billion), cyclones or high winds (LKR 11 billion), droughts (LKR 5.2 billion) and landslides (LKR 1.8 billion). This is equivalent to 0.4 percent of GDP or 2.1 percent of government expenditure. (#SLDU2017). Floods and landslides in May 2016 caused damages amounting to US$572 million.   
 
These numbers do not paint the full picture of impact for those most affected, who lost loved ones, irreplaceable belongings, or livestock and more so for those who are back to square one on the socio-economic ladder.
 
Even more alarming, these numbers are likely to rise as droughts and floods triggered by climate change will become more frequent and severe. And the brief respite in between will only get shorter, leaving less time to prepare for the hard days to come.
 
Therefore, better planning is even more necessary. Sri Lanka, like many other countries has started to invest in data that highlights areas at risk, and early warning systems to ensure that people move to safer locations with speed and effect.
 
Experience demonstrates that the eye of the storm is the time to look to the future, ready up citizens and institutions in case of extreme weather.
 
Now is the time to double down on preparing national plans to respond to disasters and build resilience. 

It’s the time to test our systems and get all citizens familiar with emergency drills. But, more importantly, we need to build back better and stronger.  In drought-affected areas, we can’t wait for the rains and revert to the same old farming practices. It’s time to innovate and stock up on critical supplies and be prepared when a disaster hits.
 
It’s the time to plan for better shelters that are safe and where people can store their hard-earned possessions.
 
Mobilizing and empowering communities is essential. But to do this, we must know who is vulnerable – and whether they should stay or move.  Saving lives is first priority, no doubt. Second, we should also have the necessary systems and equipment to respond with speed and effect in times of disasters. Third, a plan must be in place to help affected families without much delay.
 
Fortunately, many ongoing initiatives aim to do just that.

And a river runs through it

Atul Agarwal's picture

Integrating the Brahmaputra’s innumerable ferries into Assam’s wider transport network

Anyone who has visited Assam cannot help but being struck by the mighty Brahmaputra. The river straddles the state like a colossus, coursing through its heart, and severing it into two - the northern and southern banks. During the monsoon, so vast is the river’s expanse - almost 20 km in parts - that you cannot see the other side. And so fearsome can be its waters that the Brahmaputra is India’s only river to have a masculine name; all the others have feminine appellations. Yet, just four bridges, including India’s longest bridge that was recently inaugurated on its tributary the Lohit - and one more under construction - span the state’s entire 900 km stretch of river.
 
Given this formidable natural barrier, most of Assam’s towns have developed on the river’s southern flank, where the plains are wider. With little connectivity, the northern side remains cut off from the mainstream, and is largely underdeveloped.


 
What’s more, small communities who live on the river’s hundred or so inhabited islands, remain isolated. It can be quite frustrating to see a school or a medical center on the other side and not be able to get to it! Only Majuli, the world’s largest riverine island and an administrative district by itself, supports schools and some form of medical facilities for its more than 100,000 residents.

Sri Lankan Winners and exciting news: #StoriesfromLKA photo contest!

Tashaya Anuki Premachandra's picture

The three winning pictures of the online campaign #StoriesfromLKA

World Bank Sri Lanka launched an online campaign titled #StoriesfromLKA during the month of June celebrating World Environment day “Connecting People to Nature”. The campaign included online interactions to learn about World Bank operations related to the environment and a photo competition to appreciate the natural beauty of Sri Lanka that needs to be preserved while Sri Lanka pursues a development drive.
This competition began on the 21st of June and aimed at showcasing the many talented photographers from Sri Lanka as well as celebrating the rich flora and fauna of the country. After the contest ended on June 30th, 167 entries were shortlisted. We asked you which photos were your favorites and you voted on your selections through social media. Your votes helped us narrow down the top three winners, here they are:

Providing road access to all: how India is turning a distant dream into reality

Ashok Kumar's picture
For many decades now man has been able to go to the moon. Yet down here on earth, many people are still unable to travel to nearby towns, because of the lack of decent roads. The world over, about a billion people live without access to an all-weather road. And many more have perhaps lost the access they once had because floods, heavy rains, cloudbursts, landslides and other extreme weather events have damaged the roads or they have not been maintained. Can we ever think of a world free of poverty without addressing this fundamental challenge?  
 
Let’s look at the case of India where 500,000 km of rural roads have so far been built by the country’s flagship rural roads program (PMGSY). These roads, connecting some 120,000 settlements, have already started transforming the rural areas of the country.
Photo Credit: Shaju John/World Bank


These roads form part of a core network of 1.1 million that India is seeking to build through its ongoing $35 billion PMGSY program to provide about 179,000 rural settlements with road access. The project has been designed to deliver high-quality, sustainable roads in a timely and cost-effective manner. PMGSY’s main source of funding is a special tax on diesel. Since the PMGSY began, the World Bank has been working closely with the Indian government through a series of projects and knowledge initiatives, with funding of about US$1.8 billion.

World Bank guarantees help Pakistan get cheaper, longer term loans from international market

Enrique Blanco Armas's picture
Dasu
Photo Credit: Pakistan's Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA)

Compared to their investment needs, developing countries have very limited concessional financing available to them. International commercial banks are constrained in terms of the size and tenors of credits to Emerging Markets and Developing Economies. A key challenge therefore, is to channel large savings and capital into productive investments in developing countries, partly by ‘de-risking’ investments and borrowings.  Pakistan is at the forefront of these efforts, recently making use of two World Bank guarantees to access over 1 billion US dollars in two international commercial loan financings.

A $420 million IBRD Policy Based Guarantee (PBG) was approved by the World Bank Board alongside a $500 million IDA credit in June 2016. The PBG guarantee partially takes over the risk of a commercial bank’s loan to a government. The PBG and the IDA credit supported a program of reforms including the adoption of a new and more inclusive poverty line, efforts to broaden the tax base, enhanced transparency of State Owned Enterprises, improved debt management and a significant overhaul of the regulatory framework of the financial sector.  Improved access to international financing through the PBG will reduce the government’s dependence on domestic financing and free up resources for private sector investment. The guarantee also signals the World Bank’s confidence in Pakistan’s economic reforms program – a signal that is particularly important after the successful completion of the IMF program. The government used the US$420 million PBG to partly guarantee a 10-year US$700 million loan, extending tenor significantly and achieving cost savings.  

Seize the Opportunity to make Dhaka a Great, Vibrant City

Qimiao Fan's picture

The success of Dhaka, one of the megacities of the world, is critically important for the economic and social development of Bangladesh. The city's astonishing growth, from a population of 3 million in 1980 to 18 million  today, represents the promise and dreams of a better life: the hard  work and sacrifices made by all residents to seize  opportunities to lift themselves from poverty towards greater prosperity. 

 
 However, as Dhaka has grown to become one of the most densely populated cities in the world, its expansion has  been messy and uneven. Dhaka's growth has taken place without adequate planning, resulting in a city with extreme  congestion, poor liveability, and vulnerability to floods and earthquakes. Many residents, including the 3.5 million  people living in informal settlements, often lack access to basic services, infrastructure, and amenities. 
 
Unplanned and uncontrolled growth has created unprecedented congestion: the average driving speed has dropped  from 21km per hour 10 years ago to less than 7km per hour today. Continuing on current trends would result in a  further slowdown to 4km an hour — slower than the average walking speed! Congestion eats up 3.2 million working hours each day and costs the economy billions of dollars every year. Some of the most important economic benefits    from urbanisation are missed out due to this messiness, resulting in lower incomes for the city and the country.
 
These problems will not go away on their own. Dhaka's population is expected to double once again by 2035, to 35  million. Without a fundamental re-think requiring substantial planning, coordination, investments, and action, Dhaka  will never be able to deliver its full potential. Dhaka is at a crossroads in defining its future and destiny. 
 
Up to now, urban growth has mainly taken place in the northern part of Dhaka and expanded westward after the  flood of 1988, when the government built the western embankment for flood protection. This resulted in high-density  investments near the city centre, where infrastructure and social services were accessible. However, real estate investments were not coordinated with other infrastructure and transportation services. 

Local communities combat climate change in Bangladesh

Shilpa Banerji's picture
Mahfuzul Hasan Bhuiyan/World Bank
Bangladesh is among the most vulnerable countries to flooding and climate change impacts. Photo Credit: 
Mahfuzul Hasan Bhuiyan/World Bank

How can a country vulnerable to natural disasters mitigate the effects of climate change? In Bangladesh, resilient communities have shown that by using local solutions it is possible to combat different types of climate change impacting different parts of the country.
 
Every year, flash floods and drought affect the north and north-west regions. Drinking water becomes scarce, land becomes barren and people struggle to find shelter for themselves and their livestock. In the coastal districts, excessive saline makes it impossible to farm and fish.
 
The Community Climate Change Project (CCCP) has awarded grants to around 41 NGOs to address salinity, flood and drought-prone areas. With the help from local NGOs, communities innovated simple solutions to cope up with changing climate and earn a better living benefiting at least 40,000 people in the most vulnerable districts.
 
Raising the plinths of their homes in clusters has helped more than 15,000 families escape floods, and they continued to earn their livelihoods by planting vegetables and rearing goats on raised ground. Vermicomposting has also helped to increase crop yields. In the saline affected areas, many farmers have started to cultivate salinity tolerant crabs with women raising their income level by earning an additional BDT 1500 a month from saline tolerant mud crab culture in high saline areas.
 
Watch how communities use these three solutions to tackle climate change impacts.

Our commitment to the people of Afghanistan stays strong

Annette Dixon's picture
Also available in: دری | پښتو
Despite government efforts with support from the international community, Afghanistan's development needs remain massive. Photo Credit: Rumi Consultancy/ World Bank

I am still shaken and saddened by the many lives lost to the attacks in Kabul two weeks ago and since then there has been more violence. As we grieve these tragedies, now is the time to stand strong with the people of Afghanistan and renew our commitment to build a peaceful and prosperous country.

To that end, we announced this week a new financing package of more than half-a-billion dollars to help Afghanistan through its struggle to end poverty, increase opportunity to help stabilize the country, and ensure all its citizens can access basic services during a time of economic uncertainty.

Afghanistan has come a long way since 2001 and achieved much progress under extremely challenging circumstances. Life expectancy has increased from 44 to 60 years, maternal mortality has decreased by more than three quarters and the country now boasts 18 million mobile phone subscribers, up from almost none in 2001.

Yet, the development needs in Afghanistan remain massive. Nearly 40 percent of Afghans live in poverty and almost 70 percent of the population are illiterate. The country needs to create new jobs for about 400,000 people entering the labor market each year. The situation is made more challenging by the return of around 5.8 million refugees and 1.2 million internally displaced people.

Our new support is in line with our belief that Afghanistan’s economic and social progress can also help it address security challenges.  Our financing package meets the pressing needs of returning refugees, expands private-sector opportunities for the poor, boosts the development of five cities, expands electrification, improves food security, and builds rural roads.

Celebrating 15 Years of reengagement in Afghanistan

Raouf Zia's picture
Also available in: دری | پښتو




Shortly after the Soviet invasion in 1979, the World Bank suspended its operations in Afghanistan. Work resumed in May 2002 to help meet the immediate needs of the poorest people and assist the government in building strong and accountable institutions to deliver services to its citizens.

As we mark the reopening of the World Bank office in Kabul 15 years ago, here are 15 highlights of our engagement in the country:

Three key policies to boost performance of South Asia’s ports

Matias Herrera Dappe's picture



In a previous blog
we related how South Asia as a whole had improved the performance of its container ports since 2000 but had still struggled to catch up with other developed and developing regions. But within that picture, some ports did better than others. 

For example, Colombo in Sri Lanka, the fast-expanding Mundra and Jawaharlal Nehru Port in India and Port Qasim in Pakistan all improved the use of their facilities in the first decade of this century.  India’s Mumbai and Tuticorin were among those that fell behind. Colombo also improved its operational performance by almost halving the share of idle time at berth, while Chittagong (Bangladesh) and Kolkata (India) had the longest vessel turnaround times in the region.

Knowing how specific ports perform and the characteristics of ports that perform well and those of ports that perform poorly helps policymakers design interventions to support underperforming ports.

In the report “Competitiveness of South Asia’s Container Ports” we identified three interrelated policies to improve the performance of the container ports, a key element in one of the world’s fast-growing regions: increasing private participation in ports, strengthening governance of port authorities and fostering competition between and within ports: 

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