Lesotho + 7 more

Southern African countries receive assistance for groundwater and drought management project

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Washington, June 14, 2005 -- The World Bank Board of Directors today approved a project to manage groundwater and drought in the Southern African region to be executed by the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
The Groundwater and Drought Management project has an overall cost of US$7.5 million, and is being funded by a US$7 million grant from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and a US$0.5 million contribution from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA).

The grant has a four-year objective to develop consensus on a SADC regional strategic approach to support and enhance the capacity of its member states to articulate and implement drought management policies, specifically in relation to the role, availability and supply potential of groundwater resources.

One of the goals of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) is to foster cooperation and ensure that benefits from the exploitation of the region's vast resources accrue to all its member states -- Angola, Botswana, DRC, Lesotho, Mauritius, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Most SADC countries face natural constraints such as a high degree of spatial and temporal variability in the rainfall, and imposed constraints including a lack of basic data and knowledge, fragmented responsibility for management of water resources, the need to develop common policy approaches and technical capacity. These constraints are particularly apparent in the case of groundwater resources.

The development of countries in the region is highly dependent on adequate and reliable water resources. About one third of the people in the region live in drought-prone areas, where groundwater is the primary source of drinking water for the human population and livestock, and most other activities. Groundwater is also the prime source of water for many ecosystems and their wildlife in these areas. Groundwater resources in arid areas are under threat from over-exploitation, pollution and the introduction of exotic species.

These threats arise primarily because of poverty linked to an increase in population pressure, as well as from irrigated agriculture, tourism, mining and pollution from human waste and agricultural chemicals. The threat to the groundwater resources of these vulnerable areas also constitutes a major menace to the related groundwater dependant eco-systems. At the regional level there is a need for an effective mechanism to manage the numerous trans-border watersheds, including groundwater.

The project contains four inter-related components:

(i) Testing of practical local groundwater drought management strategies at pilot level in the Limpopo River Basin;

(ii) Research into Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems, their occurrence, vulnerability, value and protection;

(iii) The development of groundwater drought management tools and guidelines;

(iv) The establishment of a regional Groundwater Management Institute of Southern Africa to continue long term monitoring and the promotion of better management and awareness in the SADC region and at national level.

The project will be executed by the Water Division within the Infrastructure and Services Directorate of SADC. The project forms part of the SADC Regional Strategic Action Plan (RSAP) for Integrated Water Resources Development and Management developed in 1998, and is a partnership between SADC, the member governments and specialized government departments of SADC member states as well as stakeholders, in particular the user communities in the pilot areas of the Limpopo River Basin.

The project is co-financed by GEF and the SADC member states, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA). It will also receive indirect contributions from the French and German governments.

GEF is a mechanism for providing new and additional grant and concessional funding to meet the agreed incremental costs of measures to achieve agreed global environmental benefits in the six focal areas - climate change; biological diversity; international waters; ozone layer depletion, land degradation, and persistent organic pollutants.

The World Bank Group is one of GEF's implementing agencies and supports countries in preparing GEF co-financed projects and supervises their implementation. It plays the primary role in ensuring the development and management of investment projects. The Bank draws upon its investment experience in eligible countries to promote investment opportunities and to mobilize private sector, bilateral, multilateral, and other government and non-government sector resources that are consistent with GEF objectives and national sustainable development strategies. Since 1991, the World Bank Group has committed $1.972 billion in GEF resources and $3.037 billion in Bank group co-financing for GEF projects in 80 countries. In addition to GEF and Bank resources, it has mobilized additional co-financing of $6.952 billion from other donors.

Media Contact

In Washington:

Aby Toure (202) 473 8302
akonate@worldbank.org

In South Africa:

Mallory Saleson (27-12) 431-3100
msaleson@worldbank.org