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15/01/2009

Improving Water Resources Management in Yemen


Yemen is among the most water-scarce countries, with an arid climate and one of the lowest rates of freshwater availability per capita. Water shortages pose an increasing constraint to the country’s efforts at economic development and poverty reduction. The Government of Yemen and development partners in the international community have therefore implemented a number of water resources management projects in the last decades. The FAO Investment Centre has played a key role in recent years in supporting the World Bank and other partners in preparing and supervising these projects, from assessing the potential environmental impacts of the Bank’s Rainfed Agriculture and Livestock Project and providing technical backstopping, to the rehabilitation of spate irrigation infrastructure under the Bank’s Irrigation Improvement Project.

The latest and most ambitious initiative is the Water Sector Support Project (WSSP), a vast programme designed to support implementation of phase two of the Government’s ambitious National Water Sector Strategy and Investment Programme and advance achievement of its goal to improve sustainable and economically efficient use of its scarce water resources. The WSSP will be financed at approximately USD500 million over five years (2009-2014) by a consortium of the Government’s development partners: the World Bank and the Governments of Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, which have agreed to adopt a sector-wide approach (SWAp) to financing investments under the WSSP for integrated water resource management, urban water supply and sanitation, rural water supply and sanitation, irrigation and institutional development and capacity building.

At the request of the World Bank, the Investment Centre has been actively involved in the formulation of the WSSP with the Bank and its development partners from identification in 2007 through appraisal in 2008. Centre support has focused on working with national counterparts to ensure the WSSP’s compliance with the environmental policies of the Government and the environmental safeguard policies of the World Bank and its partners, and has helped in overseeing the preparation of an environmental impact assessment for the WSSP. Centre staff have also assisted in ensuring compliance with the Bank’s social safeguard policies. The result of this collaboration was the decision to take an innovative approach to integrating both environmental and social concerns in one Sector-wide Environmental and Social Assessment (SwESA) for the WSSP.

An SwESA has been prepared based on intensive review of previous water sector project interventions and extensive consultations with Government stakeholders and potential beneficiaries. It is one of few examples of such an integrated approach in World Bank experience. The SwESA focuses on the relevant environmental, social and economic impacts of the WSSP at policy, programme and project levels, and analyzes the relationships between these different levels, such as the impacts of recent decentralization legislation on local-level water management. The upstream approach to impact assessment taken by the SwESA is more comprehensive than a traditional assessment, as it gives explicit attention to sector-wide assessment of environmental, social and economic issues in the water sector. Moreover, the SwESA should prove more efficient in the long run, the value added likely to be considerable, as future project interventions within the water sector could be developed with a project-specific assessment grounded in the SwESA.