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Rediscovering the Potential of the World’s Oldest Highways - Bangladesh Waterways

Diep Nguyen-Van Houtte's picture
River crossing in Bangladesh
Boat passengers in rural Bangladesh. Photo credit: Erik Nora

When my team and I saw this boat passing by us in July 2013 in rural Bangladesh, near the border with Mizoram, Northeast India, and Myanmar, I felt immediately empathic.

How many people are on that boat? Eighty? Does it have a motor? Can those people swim, especially the women? No lifejackets! I wondered how long their trip was, and then I thought: What if they needed a bathroom break? Memories of my family's escape from Vietnam by boat in 1981 flashed back—34 refugees jammed into a traditional fishing boat normally home to a family of seven, with no motor, no life jackets, and no toilets! We floated around the South China Sea and Pacific Ocean for 16 days. Most of us could not swim, certainly not the women and girls.

In rural Nepal, tying micro hydropower plants to the main grid brings electricity for all

Bhupendra Shakya's picture
Talti village in Dhading district in Nepal where a MHP scheme has made it possible to open an agro-processing plant
Talti village in Dhading district in Nepal: A new micro hydropower plant has made it possible to open
an agro-processing plant. Credit: The World Bank

Fifteen years ago, I started a new job in the Sindhupalchowk district in Central Nepal. I was working in the rural energy development section of the District Development Committee and supervised technical support for micro hydropower plants (MHPs) in the area.

My job also entailed reaching out to local communities and ensuring they were deeply involved, from installation to maintenance, in bringing micro hydro to their villages.

During my time in Sindhupalchowk, I witnessed firsthand the dramatic and positive changes  hydro-powered electricity brought to people’s lives: houses lit up, radio and television sets came to life, mobile phones were easier to use, schools could run computer classes, small-scale enterprises flourished, and shops stayed open longer and offered more products. Moreover, the newly generated power contributed to improving the working conditions of women employed in local agro-processing mills as mechanical automation replaced labour-intensive manual processing.

For remote rural households not connected to the grid, MHPs have provided ready access to electricity. Still, as the national grid was gradually deployed into rural areas – albeit with little coordination between the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) and the Alternative Energy Promotion Centre (AEPC), respectively responsible for the national grid and alternative energy promotion -- villages with both existing MHPs and a new grid connection faced an entirely novel problem.
 
In places like Bhuktangle, Parbat and Righa, Baglung, detailed feasibility studies and construction of MHPs had already been completed when the grid was extended to these areas. As a result, more than 50% of existing customers switched from their MHP-generated electricity services and the ensuing lower electricity usage made it difficult to pay off the loan that was taken out for the building of the plant.  Ten districts in 2010 showed similar patterns as about 11% of MHPs are now competing with the national grid.
 

Local elections in Pakistan: A chance to improve public services

Ming Zhang's picture
Discussing public services in Pakistan
Discussing public services in Pakistan. Credit: GSP/MDTF/2013
I arrived in Pakistan right after the third round of local elections held in most provinces on December 5.

​This was the first local election in 10 years in most places of the country. Voters elected council members of three tiers of local governments: district, urban councils, and union council/ward.

How will these elections impact the lives of average citizens?

International experiences have shown that the main benefit of elected local bodies is their closeness to citizens, which allows them to be much more responsive – although with sustained hard work -- to improving local services such as waste, water, sewerage and transportation.

In a report about managing spatial transformation in South Asia launched at the 3rd Pakistan Urban Forum, we highlighted that passing reforms aimed at revitalizing urban governance is critical to make South Asia cities more livable and prosperous (see chapter 3 of the report).

To that end, we identified three closely related "deficits" -- empowerment, resource, and accountability -- which, if tackled properly, could lead to improved local urban governance.

The recent local elections in Pakistan are important steps toward reducing these three deficits. The new local government laws, which were enacted in most provinces in 2013, started to re-empower local governments after the expiration of the earlier 2001 Local Government Act.
 

How to manage urban growth in Pakistan

Jessica Rachel Schmidt's picture
Panoramic cityscape of Karachi in Pakistan
Panoramic cityscape of Karachi in Pakistan.
Karachi’s urbanization has had a physical impact on surrounding cities,
creating sprawling and underleveraged agglomerations
Credit: World Bank
With Pakistan’s urban population expected to increase by about 40 million people to an estimated 118 million by 2030, immediate action is needed to transform the country’s cities into livable, prosperous places. That was the message delivered by Peter Ellis, World Bank Lead Urban Economist and co-author of the South Asia Flagship Report, Leveraging Urbanization in South Asia:  Managing Spatial Transformation for Prosperity and Livability, at the 3rd Pakistan Urban Forum in Lahore earlier this month.

Properly managed urbanization will be critical as Pakistan’s urban population continues to increase.

Urbanization growth is already stretching cities’ resources. Pakistan faced an urban housing shortage of approximately 4.4 million units in 2010 and Karachi ranked 135 out of 140 countries in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2015 livability index.

Unlocking climate finance for more renewable energy in South Asia

Keisuke Iyadomi's picture
Indian woman cleaning up solar panels in the province of Orissa, India
Indian woman cleaning up solar panels in the province of Odisha, India. 
Credit: Abbie Trayler-Smith / Panos Pictures / Department for International Development

With only 43% of its households with access to electricity, Odisha’s economic development lags behind that of other states in India. However, it is home to rich water reserves, wildlife, forest, minerals, and renewable energy sources, which together can help boost the state’s economy.
 
Let’s take the example of solar energy.
 
In recent years, Odisha and its international partners have set out to boost the development of renewable energy in the state and now aim to identify and scale up potential solar power sites.  
 
Yet, challenges remain.
 
Despite 300 clear sunny days every year representing a huge solar potential (Odisha receives an average solar radiation of 5.5 kWh/ Sq. m area), only 1.29 percent of Odisha’s total energy capacity stems from renewable sources.
 
Considering that Odisha is planning to increase its solar capacity from 31.5 Megawatts (MW) to 2,300 MW in the next five years, the state must step up its efforts and enact relevant policies to meet its solar energy goals. This, in turn, could benefit local businesses and spur economic growth.
 

Big lessons on climate change from a small country

Annette Dixon's picture
Landscape of terrace fields and homes. Bhutan
Landscape of terrace fields and homes in Bhutan. Credits: Curt Carnemark / World Bank

The mountain kingdom of Bhutan may not seem an obvious place to look for lessons on addressing climate change. But on a recent visit I was impressed with how much this small country has achieved and also with its ambition. Bhutan has much to teach South Asia and the wider world. These lessons are especially relevant as the world negotiates in Paris a new pact on climate change at the International Climate Change Summit, known as COP21, which we all hope will eventually move the global economy to a low carbon and more resilient path.

The talks aimed at agreeing a way to keep global warming to a maximum of 2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial era levels. There is widespread agreement that going above this threshold would have serious consequences. South Asia is among the regions of the world that is likely to be most affected by climate change. We are already experiencing this. There is increasing variability of the monsoon rainfall, more heavy rainfalls such as those that caused the recent flooding in India, and an increase in the number of droughts.

A World Bank report in 2013 predicted that even if the warming climate was kept at 2 degrees then this could threaten the lives of millions of people in South Asia. The region's dense urban populations face extreme heat, flooding and diseases and millions of people could be trapped in poverty. Droughts could especially affect north-western India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

These are big problems. They may look much bigger than anything Bhutan - a very small country in a populous region - can teach South Asia and the world. But I see three lessons. Firstly, a commitment to ambitious goals will be critical to save the world from climate disaster. To stop the world from warming too much, climate experts estimate that global greenhouse gas emissions must be cut by up to 70 percent by 2050. Carbon neutrality (zero emissions) must be achieved within this century.
 

Engaging men and boys in Pakistan to help end violence against women

Maria Beatriz Orlando's picture
Pakistani boys and girls
Pakistani boys and girls. Credit: The World Bank

Violence against women is a pervasive issue in Pakistan. The problem manifests itself in many ways, most of them extreme: honor killing, spousal abuse including marital rape, acid attacks, being burned by family members, attempted murder at the hands of husband or in-laws, or even driving a woman to suicide. According to the latest Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) in the country, 32% of ever married women aged 15-49 years report having experienced physical violence at the hands of their spouses, and 1 in 10 women reported experiencing violence during pregnancy.

However, violence against women goes beyond physical intimate-partner violence. As an example, a study based on face-to-face interviews with 759 women in Karachi found that 82% of married women aged 25-60 years had experienced some form of psychological abuse. Another smaller survey of 176 married men 18 years or older in age and from different socio-economic backgrounds in Karachi found that 95% reported perpetrating some type of verbal abuse during their marital life. strict rules about how men and boys should behave, including protecting honor, and an adult male can never be questioned or ordered to do anything. A woman’s behavior is also strongly linked to honor. When a woman challenges her traditional role, or is perceived to step outside the lines, honor may be threatened. The drive to preserve honor can be so strong that it has resulted in some of the most heinous crimes against women ever committed in Pakistan. 
 

आइये, खाना पकाने के ग़लत तरीकों से छुटकारा पाएं

Anita Marangoly George's picture

और इन भाषाओं में: English | Español | Français | العربية | 中文

An Indian woman cooking. Photo credit: Romana Manpreet and Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves


यह एक सच्‍चाई है: लकड़ी, चारकोल, कोयले, गोबर के उपलों और फसल के बचे हुए हिस्‍सों सहित ठोस जलावन (सॉलिड फ्यूल) की खुली आग और पारंपरिक चूल्‍हों में खाना पकाने से घर के भीतर होने वाला वायु प्रदूषण दुनिया में, हृदय और फेफड़ों की बीमारी और सांस के संक्रमण के बाद मृत्‍यु का चौथा सबसे बड़ा कारण है।

लगभग 290 करोड़ लोग, जिनमें से ज्‍़यादातर महिलाएँ हैं, अभी भी गंदगी, धुआँ और कालिख- पैदा करने वाले चूल्‍हों और ठोस जलावन से खाना पकाती हें। हालत यह है कि इतने ज्‍़यादा लोग इन खतरनाक उपकरणों का इस्‍तेमाल कर रहे हैं जो भारत और चीन की कुल आबादी से भी ज्‍़यादा हैं।   

इसे बदलने की जरूरत है। और बदलाव हो रहा है जैसा कि मैंने पिछले सप्‍ताह में एक्‍रा, घाना में संपन्‍न क्‍लीन कुकिंग फोरम 2015 की कई बातचीतों को सुना। घाना के पेट्रोलियम मंत्री और महिला व विकास उपमंत्री की बात सुनकर, मुझे अहसास हुआ कि सर्वाधिक जरूरतमंद परिवारों को स्‍वच्‍छ चूल्‍हे व स्‍वच्‍छ ईंधन उपलब्‍ध कराने की गहरी इच्‍छा निश्चित रूप से यहाँ मौजूद है। लेकिन इच्‍छाओं को सच्‍चाई में बदलना एक चुनौती है। यह बात न केवल घाना में बल्कि दुनिया के कई हिस्‍सों के लिए भी सही है।

बाद में मैंने इस बारे में काफी सोचा खास तौर पर जब हमने पेरिस में होने वाली जलवायु परिवर्तन कॉन्‍फ्रेंस (सीओपी21) पर ध्‍यान दिया जहाँ दुनिया के नेता जलवायु परिवर्तन के दुष्‍प्रभाव कम करने के वैश्विक समझौते पर सहमति बनाने के लिए इकट्ठा होंगे। उस लक्ष्‍य तक पहुंचने की एक महत्‍वपूर्ण कुंजी ऊर्जा के स्‍वच्‍छ स्रोतों को अपनाना भी है। इस लिहाज से, संयुक्‍त राष्‍ट्र संघ का सस्‍टेनेबल एनर्जी गोल (एसडीजी7) का एक मकसद - किफायती, भरोसेमंद, वहनीय (सस्‍टेनेब‌िल) और आधुनिक ऊर्जा तक सभी की पहुंच सुनिश्‍च‌ित करना - यह भी है कि ऐसे 290 करोड़ लोगों तक खाना पकाने के स्‍वच्‍छ समाधान पहुंचाएँ जाएँ, जो आज उनके पास नहीं हैं।  

Is India’s growth oil-fueled?

Frederico Gil Sander's picture
Traffic jam in a street in Old Delhi
Traffic jam in a street in Old Delhi. Credit: Yann Doignon / World Bank

As an intrinsically-optimistic Brazilian, my new assignment following India’s economy suits me well: India is one of the few bright spots in a somber global economy and is set to become the fastest growing large economy in the world. Our recently-released India Development Update projects India’s GDP will grow by 7.5 percent in the fiscal year ending March 2016, and by 7.8 and 7.9 percent in the following two years. Not quite the double-digit growth the Government would like to see, and to be sure there are significant uncertainties about the outlook, but an enviable state of affairs nonetheless.

What is driving the favorable momentum?

The drastic decline in global crude oil prices since June 2014 clearly played an important role. As a net oil importer, the halving of oil prices has been a bonanza for India. External vulnerabilities were greatly reduced as the lower oil import bill shrank the current account deficit despite anemic exports. Lower oil prices also helped contain prices of global commodities, and along with the RBI’s prudent monetary policy led to a significant decline in inflation. This in turn boosted real incomes in urban areas and allowed RBI to lower policy rates by a cumulative 125 basis points in the first nine months of 2015.

What does art have to do with technology?

Anna O'Donnell's picture
How youth in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are linking to the creative economy and curating culture 
Art Tech Festival
Join us at the Art Tech Festival in Peshawar! Register to attend on the website: http://www.arttechfestival.com/

What does art have to do with technology? Just ask Mahoor Jamal, a fashion illustrator and portrait artist from Peshawar, who uses Instagram—an online photo site—to showcase her work and connect with an international audience and to sell more of her work. Or just ask Jawad Afridi, a photographer and the founder of Humans of Peshawar. He is also dependent on social media for his work, using Facebook to exhibit his photographs of the people of Peshawar. This has earned him customers and recognition beyond Pakistan and he has recently contributed to the publication of a book in the UK. These young artists, and many more, will soon be getting together in the Pakistani province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to celebrate art and technology over two days at the ArtTech Festival.

Formerly known as the Northwest Frontier Province, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has historically been an important trade route between Central and South Asia. This position resulted in an amalgamation of unique cultures, traditions, ethnicities, histories and monuments that have shaped today’s artists, artisans and musicians from KP. KP is now emerging from a period of instability, and is looking to the future to identify opportunities for its youth in the knowledge economy.

The ArtTech Festival will be the first step in raising awareness and building a community of youth interested specifically in the cutting edge intersection of art and technology. As a “sister” festival to the larger Digital Youth Summit, the Festival creates a space and platform to encourage cross disciplinary creativity and to nurture entrepreneurship in the creative and cultural industries.

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