Despite lack of progress under the first phase of the $150-million Sindh Water Sector Improvement project, the World Bank (WB) on Wednesday approved $138 million in additional financing to achieve missed targets.
The Washington-based lending agency has approved the additional financing for improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the irrigation water distribution system of three Area Water Boards in Ghotki, Nara and Left Bank in the Sindh province, according to a handout issued by the country office of the WB.
The loan term is 25 years, with interest rate set at around 1.5% in dollar terms.
The Sindh Water Sector Improvement project had been originally approved in September 2007 and was supposed to be closed by April 2013. As the agreed objectives could not be achieved despite massive spending, the WB extended the first phase to February 2015. Out of $150 million, the WB has so far disbursed $131.6 million.
The WB has been facing criticism for funding failed projects aimed at hiding its inefficiencies. Earlier this month, WB Country Director Rachid Benmessaoud ducked a question as to why the agency was continuously funding failed projects, which was also becoming a reason for the country’s growing debt burden.
Under the first phase, the WB had targeted to increase efficiency from 52% to 100% in conveyance of distributaries, minor canals, watercourses and farms in the targeted areas. However, according to a latest report regarding the outcomes of the first phase, only 71% efficiency could be achieved by November this year.
The targets of reliability in water supply and equity in water distribution were also missed. Sindh is one of the poorest regions of the country, and 56% of household income in the province comes from agriculture, directly or indirectly.
The WB insists that the project covers over 1.8 million hectares of irrigated land and would benefit over 600,000 farm households or over 3.6 million people.
Benmessaoud said the additional financing will help increase agricultural productivity, employment and incomes in more than 30% of the irrigated area of Sindh. Interestingly, the WB has claimed to achieve the same benefits when it issued the first handout in September 2007 while approving the first phase of the project.
The project will cover rehabilitation of key hydraulic infrastructure, main and branch canals, and distributaries and minors that were covered under the scope of the original project but could not be undertaken because of cost escalation and impact of successive 2010 and 2011 floods, hence the need for additional funds, stated the WB.
It will also address the systemic issues of the irrigation and drainage sector leading to its sustainability in the long run. The project’s ultimate objective is to deepen the institutional reforms that are already underway in Sindh.
The $42.9-million ADB loan
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) also approved a loan of $42.9 million to provide reliable irrigation for farmlands and non-cultivated lands in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) in Pakistan. The loan is said to help reduce poverty and boost household food security.
The project area consists three of seven Fata agencies – namely Bajaur, Khyber and Mohmand, with a population of 2.6 million – whose vast majority depends on agriculture, livestock, and natural resources for their livelihood.
Poor water resource management has become a major obstacle to increasing productivity and improving the living conditions of the Fata inhabitants. Due to low rainfall, many farmers in the project area rely on rain-fed subsistence agriculture, which produces food staples such as wheat and maize. Some rely for irrigation mainly on groundwater taken from wells, with little utilisation of surface water.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 18th, 2014.
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