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close this bookToward Sustainable Management of Water Resources (WB)
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The World Bank, with assistance from organizations in the United Nations, and after intensive consultation with its borrowers and with international and developing-country nongovernmental organizations, has adopted a new policy for water resources management that takes a comprehensive approach, emphasizing economic behavior, the overcoming of market and policy failures, more efficient use of water, and greater protection of the environment (box 11). It is working actively with its developing-country partners to encourage implementation of these objectives. In Brazil, the Bank is financing water quality and pollution control projects that create basin authorities and institutional, legal, and regulatory frameworks that facilitate crosssectoral and cross-governmental coordination, while delegating many responsibilities to municipalities. In Bangladesh, the Bank has supported the creation of an enabling environment that allows the private sector to take responsibility for selling and maintaining low-lift pumps and shallow tubewells. The number of tubewells has grown substantially, with a subsequent increase in market activity for water. In Pakistan, the Bank is helping to develop a delivery mechanism whereby rural communities will provide, operate, and maintain the service themselves. And in

Box 11. How the World Bank Promotes a Comprehensive Framework

As described in its policy paper Water: Resources Management (1993a), the Bank is giving priority to countries with significant water management problems. It is encouraging and helping countries to develop a systematic framework for incorporating cross-sectoral and ecosystem interdependencies into the formulation of policies, regulations, and public investment plans that are appropriate to the particular country's situation. The framework fosters transparent decisions and emphasizes demand management. It is designed so that the options for public water management in a river basin or watershed can be evaluated and compared within a national water strategy and the various economic, social, and environmental objectives that countries adopt. It also enables coherent public investment plans to be formulated at the national and basin level and consistent policies and regulations to be developed across sectors. This allows individual projects to be simplified, thus enhancing their likelihood of success. To facilitate the introduction of such a framework, the Bank is ready to support capacity building by enhancing analytical capabilities, adopting participatory techniques, and strengthening data bases, as well as by conducting water resource assessments and promoting needed institutional changes.

In its operations, the Bank is promoting the creation and strengthening of hydrologic, hydrogeologic, water quality, and environmental data bases for both surface water and groundwater. It encourages the development and use of adequate data bases regarding the various elements of the water system. This information is an important input into a country's national water strategy and environmental action plan To facilitate the collection of data, the Bank supports the use of modern technologies for hydrologic and environmental monitoring and for surveys and data processing, taking into account the relation between the costs and benefits of more detailed information. Since improved information systems are a key input for comprehensive water management, the Bank is helping countries to develop systems that effectively use the data to monitor current changes in water supply and demand, thereby improving decisionmaking.

Mexico, the Bank is supporting tile transfer of almost 2.5 million hectares of irrigated agriculture to water user associations that will be responsible for operating and maintaining canals and distributing water.

As these examples demonstrate, efforts to implement a new approach are feasible. The financial requirements, however, will be substantial. For water supply and sanitation and irrigation and power, these are estimated to be $600 billion to $800 billion during the next decade. The World Bank will continue its extensive support for water resources. The Bank has already lent $40 billion for water-related investments in the last thirty years. During the next ten years, it will lend an additional $35 billion to $40 billion. This will represent about half of all external agency funding for water. Developing countries must finance the balance, but they will not be able to do so from central budgets alone. Part of the capital will have to come from water users. Therefore, as recommended in the new demand-side approach to water management, emphasis on cost recovery and private sector involvement will be crucial.

After decades of waste, pollution, and inability to provide basic water services to the poor, we must fundamentally change the way we think about and manage water. The lessons of collective experience demonstrate that we must make a decisive break from past policies to embrace a new approach that is comprehensive, market-oriented, participatory, and environmentally sustainable. This approach is consistent with the consensus that has emerged around Agenda 21, adopted at UNCED in 1992. Implementation of the new approach will require difficult decisions on the part of all of us. But one fundamental point is clear: we have no choice. At stake are our health, our economies, and the life of the planet itself.