Sunday, October 29, 2006

World Bank's Pakistan Water Project Receives Heavy Criticism

Big World Bank water project under fire
Krishna Guha
Financial Times
October 26, 2006

A recent World Bank report declared that the Bank’s major irrigation project in Pakistan was poorly designed, failed to comply with guidelines and put large numbers of people at risk.

The report which was made public recently, concerned the 1997 drainage program funded by the World Bank. The report’s findings remain relevant today since the Bank has been leaning toward increasing funding to Pakistan and other countries for similarly designed irrigation projects. The report stated that the design of the project suffered from “significant technical mistakes.” Even though the irrigation project did decrease salinity in Pakistan’s upstream agricultural areas, it put people downstream at risk. According to the report, the project actually increased the chances of flooding in downstream areas and exacerbated the impact of the 2003 floods which devastated parts of Pakistan. Finally, the report accused the Bank of failing to identify environmental concerns and not doing so led to the degradation of Pakistan’s coastal wetlands.

The Bank’s “lack of environmental and social due diligence” was slammed by a major non-governmental organization, the International Rivers Network. The World Bank defended the project by saying that the floods were caused because of “freak storms” and not because of faults in the project’s design. Also, the Bank claimed that the main drainage system was in place before the Bank began funding the irrigation project. It reserved further comment until the investigation was reviewed by the Bank’s board.


1. Should a “environmental and social due diligence” be conducted before any project is funded by the World Bank? What should the key components of such an investigation be?

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