African Development Bank Places Water and Sanitation On Africa's Climate Agenda

14 December 2018
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African Development Bank (Abidjan)

The rise in global temperature poses severe risks to water and sanitation. This includes African countries like Sudan and Niger, who grapple with extreme weather events in the Sahel region.

As part of activities of the 24th UN Climate Summit in Poland, the African Development Bank dedicated December 5th, "Water and Sanitation Day", to highlight the importance of this critical issue globally and in Africa in particular. This was done in collaboration with the wider Water Action Day event at the summit.

Climate change and sanitation are closely connected, especially with regards to flooding. While the UN's Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6.2 calls for universal sanitation, 4.5 billion people globally still lack access to safe sanitation services.

The impact of climate change on water is clearly understood. But the impact on sanitation is often less recognized.

"With unmanaged sanitation services being very common, extreme events, such flooding can result in human waste being directly flushed into local waterways, thereby increasing the risk of contamination or waterborne diseases," explains Barbara Evans on behalf of the Future Climate For Africa during a recorded presentation.

"Extreme weather events are increasing, resulting in the destruction of existing sanitation infrastructure including pit latrines and the provision of sanitation services," Ms. Evans added.

Through its African Urban Sanitation Investment Fund (AUSIF), the African Development Bank will funnel crucial funds to provide this elementary service to all Africans, through city wide inclusive sanitation approaches. "Access to water and sanitation are human rights," stated David Hebart-Coleman, Water Resources and Climate Change Expert at the African Development Bank. "Investing in sanitation infrastructure has one of the highest benefits to investment ratios in terms of its contributions to the Sustainable Development Goals. That is exactly what AUSIF is trying to accomplish."

Water management and sanitation infrastructure and services do not only suffer from climate change consequences, they are also exposed to both socio-economic and biophysical challenges. The rapid urbanisation taking place across the continent is an example of how social developments put further pressure on these crucial services.

"We try to deal with the challenge of rapid urbanisation by inclusive urban planning and design," explains Mr. Hebart-Coleman. The focus in this case should be on the wide and rapid provision of well-designed sanitation units less vulnerable to damage in the event of weather events, as well as the ongoing services used to remove and treat waste.

Additionally, sanitation infrastructure often suffers from a potential risk of deterioration after investment has ceased. To respond to this, the African Urban Sanitation Investment Fund will deploy approaches like microcapital, stimulating small-scale projects to gain economic independence to run facilities sustainably, even after initial start-up investment has ceased.

"The use of microcapital schemes when financing crucial services like these, is that local stakeholders can thrive by sustaining the services," David Hebart-Coleman said.

A final critical strategy to ensure durability and sustainability of sanitation structures was proposed by Mame Bouso Faye, representative of Climate Chance. Ms. Faye highlighted how inclusiveness of local communities and villages into regional sanitation projects is key to improving coordination and durability.

The African Development bank has sharpened its focus on the water sector. This was largely driven by Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) Policy, aimed at rationalizing and strengthening Bank Group interventions in the water sector. This further encourages borrowers to develop policies and undertake lending operations based on a comprehensive framework. The Bank has also adopted a strategy to significantly increase its interventions in rural water supply and sanitation as well as urban and peri-urban water supply and sanitation.

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