Community Advocacy on Environmental and Social Justice

Friday, 14 September 2012

Infrastructure for whom? A Critique of the Infrastructure Strategies of World Bank

There can be no prosperity without infrastructure, but infrastructure projects don’t necessarily benefit the poor. Past energy, water and transport strategies have neglected the poorest population groups, and taken a heavy toll on affected people and the environment. Will the new infrastructure strategies of the World Bank and the Group of 20 address the needs of the poor, or will they entrench the power of privileged groups? After hundreds of billions of dollars have been invested in the infrastructure sectors of poor countries, at least one billion people remain cut off from the basic services that would allow them to lead healthy, productive lives. About 13% of the world population has no access to clean water, 19% has no access to electricity, and 39% has no access to improved sanitation. Infrastructure projects have impoverished millions of people who lived in their paths, and contributed to climate change and the degradation of ecosystems on which present and future generations depend for their livelihoods.

In November 2011, the Group of 20, the World Bank and other multilateral development banks prepared new strategies for infrastructure development. They propose to focus public support on strategic regional infrastructure projects such as large dams and transport corridors, and to make them attractive for private investment through public guarantees and other incentives.

The report finds that large dams – and particularly the complex multipurpose schemes once again being promoted by the World Bank – have a history of big cost overruns and questionable economics. They have typically been built without public participation, and have increased societies’ vulnerability to corruption and climate change. Centralized projects have often had massive social impacts on local communities, but their benefits have largely bypassed the rural poor. In spite of the billions of dollars that have been poured into dams at the Inga site over the past five decades, 94% of the population of the Democratic Republic of Congo still has no access to electricity. 

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Hi Eroo !! Whats your Views on this ?