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Europe and Central Asia

Stronger together? Reflections on an 11-year journey through water reform

David Michaud's picture
The year is 2006, the scene is Honduras. As an enthusiastic new team member of a World Bank water sector reform project, I am trying to participate in the high-level discussions around decentralization and local government empowerment in the provision of water and sanitation services in my (then) broken Spanish. Coming from Switzerland, a small country with thousands of local service providers, I am convinced a bottom-up approach to service delivery is THE solution. Hasn’t the hugely influential 2004 World Development Report argued for exactly that – shortening the accountability route between customers and service providers? We are the champions of local, elected mayors, who want nothing more than to prove they could deliver better than the central government’s utility.

It’s now 2010 and I’m still in Honduras, now amid the reform implementation when reality kicks in. Three new municipal utilities have been established, with catchy logos and new staff and management. Operating costs, salaries in particular, have been slashed, and there’s a sense of opportunity – but also challenges. Those elected mayors are thinking about the next election and not very keen on adjusting tariffs to where they need to be. Installing water meters, a cornerstone of the modernization strategy, is facing a huge backlash from those very customers who are making direct use of the shorter accountability route to make their concerns heard. And services aren’t really getting better as fast as we would want…

Forward to 2014 – I’m now in Croatia. I’m sitting in a non-descript conference hall in Zagreb, Croatia, trying to inform a diverse set of local and central government stakeholders about the pros and cons of merging municipal water utilities into regional operators, as everyone else seems to be doing in the region. In fact, since my transition to Europe & Central Asia the year before, I observe what appears to be a serious case of reformitis: consultants and policy advisors are dutifully preaching the regionalization of just recently decentralized service providers to help implement the European Union’s stringent and costly environmental regulations.

Water and sanitation deprivation: What is next for Tajikistan?

Emcet O. Tas's picture
Also available in: Русский

Two years ago, I visited a village in Rudaki, a hilly district located to the south of Dushanbe, Tajikistan. It lies about forty kilometres from the capital, but it feels like a thousand kilometres away. On our drive up a hill, we saw women carrying buckets of water from a nearby spring. Moving further up, we saw children bathing and animals drinking from the same river. Once in the village, it was clear that life is largely shaped by water scarcity—the backyards were filled with pots and buckets, fuel and stoves for boiling water, and pit latrines that were no longer used because of lack of water. Although we could spot remnants of a once-functional water supply network, people living there had not had access to piped water for at least two decades. Without it, they were only able to practice the most basic forms of sanitation and hygiene. 
A community in Rudaki district, Tajikistan.
Photo credit: World Bank team.



The conditions we witnessed in Rudaki were harsh, but not rare. Located on the western tip of the Himalayas, Tajikistan is a country blessed with large fresh water resources in its lakes, rivers, and glaciers. Yet, access to safe drinking water and sanitation connected to a functioning sewer system is lacking, particularly for rural residents and the poor. Much of the existing infrastructure was built during the Soviet era and has not been upgraded for decades. Tajikistan is one of the few countries outside Africa that did not meet the Millennium Development Goal on drinking water and basic sanitation. Because poor water and sanitation conditions, together with poor nutrition and care, are key determinants of childhood stunting, Tajikistan’s childhood stunting rates remain high. Recent estimates indicate that in Tajikistan more than one in five children under the age of five are stunted and will not reach their full potential as adults.
 
In a new report, Glass Half Full: Poverty Diagnostic of Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Conditions in Tajikistan, we document the realities of Tajikistan’s WASH-deprived population. Our analysis builds on one of the largest data collection efforts of its kind – including national surveys of households and schools, water quality tests, ethnographic work, and case studies of existing WASH projects. It also includes poverty mapping and analysis of other secondary data, including a UNICEF nutrition survey that shared a subsample with our WASH survey.

Getting the water sector in the Western Balkans ready for EU membership

Angelika Heider's picture
The Vodovod Slavonski Brod, an
​EU-financed wastewater treatment plant in Croatia.
Photo credit: World Bank Croatia

​It would be my first time in Croatia, so naturally I was excited to be part of the team that organized a Danube Water Program workshop on EU Cross Support in the Water Sector in Zagreb September 28-29.

Initially, the reasons behind the World Bank’s support of this workshop aimed at facilitating the alignment of national water legislations with the European Union (EU) acquis were not obvious to me. Given, however, that almost all of the countries covered under the Danube Water Program find themselves somewhere on the path towards EU membership or candidacy, it made sense for some of them to convene.

And who could possibly be more suitable to host such an event than the EU’s youngest member state, Croatia?​

So at the end of September, in a small and – despite the suits rather informal setting at the local World Bank office, around 20 people from several line ministries and water works gathered in a conference room (with a great view of a somewhat rainy Zagreb) for a two-day event. Representatives from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia came together to discuss potential issues and hurdles that they might encounter in the transposition of EU water laws into their national legal frameworks.​

Silicon Valley: Where Innovation Meets Development

Sanitation Hackathon Team's picture

Sanitation Hackathon LogoThe Sanitation Hackathon & App Challenge three grand prize winners, mSchool, Taarifa, and SunClean, flew over from their home countries, Senegal, Tanzania, England, and Indonesia to attend the awards ceremony in Washington, DC. With a 64inch touchscreen provided by Microsoft, the teams showcased their apps to sanitation sector specialists at the WB-IMF side event on Investing in Sanitation.

Les toilettes aussi ont leurs applis !

Jose Luis Irigoyen's picture

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Personne n’ignore que l’essor rapide de l’accès à la téléphonie mobile a généré un nouveau support pour la prestation des services et la transmission de l’information, en particulier pour tous ceux qui vivent « au bas de la pyramide », soit avec moins de 1,25 dollar par jour. Notre défi, en tant que professionnels du développement, consiste à trouver des moyens pour exploiter la téléphonie mobile au profit de l’action citoyenne ; il s’agit de faire des citoyens des agents du changement, capables d’intervenir, dans leur communauté, sur les processus de développement et d’en prendre les manettes.

Retretes: Hay una aplicación móvil para eso

Jose Luis Irigoyen's picture

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No es ningún secreto que el rápido aumento del acceso a los dispositivos móviles ha creado un nuevo vehículo para la obtención de información y servicios, en particular para las personas que están en la base de la pirámide, o quienes viven con menos de US$1,25 al día. El desafío que enfrentamos como profesionales del desarrollo es comprender cómo se pueden usar los teléfonos celulares para empoderar a los ciudadanos como agentes de cambio, de modo que puedan influir e impulsar los procesos de desarrollo en sus comunidades.

Toilets: There’s an App for That

Jose Luis Irigoyen's picture

It’s no secret that the rapid rise in access to mobile phones has created a new vehicle for the delivery of information and services, particularly for people at the base of the pyramid – or those who live on less than $1.25 a day. The challenge we, as development practitioners, face is understanding how to leverage mobile phones in ways that empower citizens as agents of change who can influence and drive development processes in their communities.

The U.S. Drought Monitor: A Sophisticated Tool, But Do Not Be Intimidated by It

Nate Engle's picture

Evaluating the existence and extent of droughts is not an easy task. Not only are droughts "slow-onset" events that creep into the physical, environmental, and social systems of a region, they also have effects that span numerous sectors of a society. The U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM), as recently described by Dr. Michael Hayes from the National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC) during a recent presentation at the World Bank, provides an example for other nations as they consider how to effectively manage this difficult endeavor of characterizing drought risks and impacts.

Innovation and Partnership Lie at the Heart of Cooperation in Water

Nansia Constantinou's picture

The world commemorated World Water Day on March 22 with events around the globe focusing on ways to make international cooperation happen in the water. Events held in celebration of the Day covered all aspects of water - from water supply and sanitation, to water and its nexuses with food and energy, water resources management and water and climate change. But in most, if not all of these events, one theme was clearly cross-cutting: the importance of strengthening partnerships to leverage knowledge and facilitate innovative solutions.

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