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Addressing groundwater depletion: Lessons from India, the world’s largest user of groundwater

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pictured above: Women draw water from a well in the drylands of Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India. By Yavuz Sariyildiz via Shutterstock (November 9, 2014).
India is home to 16% of the world’s population, but only holds 4% of the world’s freshwater resources. Not only is water scarce in India, but the extraction of groundwater has been on the rise for decades. Since the 1960s, the government’s support for the “green revolution” to ensure food security has increased the demand for groundwater for agriculture. Rapid rural electrification combined Show MoreIndia is home to 16% of the world’s population, but only holds 4% of the world’s freshwater resources. Not only is water scarce in India, but the extraction of groundwater has been on the rise for decades. Since the 1960s, the government’s support for the “green revolution” to ensure food security has increased the demand for groundwater for agriculture. Rapid rural electrification combined with the availability of modern pump technologies has led to an increase in the number of borewells to meet that demand. Over the last 50 years, the number of borewells has grown from 1 million to 20 million, making India the world’s largest user of groundwater. The Central Groundwater Board of India estimates that about 17% of groundwater blocks are overexploited (meaning the rate at which water is extracted exceeds the rate at which the aquifer is able to recharge) while 5% and 14% , respectively, are at critical and semi-critical stages. The situation is particularly alarming in three major regions – north-western, western, and southern peninsular. Groundwater pollution and the effects of climate change, including erratic rainfall in the drier areas, put additional stress on groundwater resources which serve about 85% of domestic water supply in rural areas, 45% in urban areas, and over 60% of irrigated agriculture. Current overexploitation rates pose threats to livelihoods, food security, climate-driven migration, sustainable poverty reduction and urban development. The World Bank has been working with the Government of India to enhance groundwater management in affected areas. The lessons below stem from the experience of World Bank groundwater management projects in India, and are part of a broader IEG evaluation of the World Bank’s support for sustainable and inclusive natural resource management.   Integrated demand and supply side solutions offer the best option for sustainable use. IEG case studies in Rajasthan, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh showed that the success of supply-side measures, such as watershed management programs, aquifer recharging and tank rehabilitation activities, did not lead to sustainable use in the absence of demand-side action. Measures such as surface water harvesting through farm ponds and check-dams, the installation of water-efficient irrigation systems (e.g. more efficient drips and sprinklers) and growing less water intensive crops, need to be integrated on the demand side for improved management and reduced depletion. Weak regulatory action to limit demand for groundwater can hinder the success of programs in reversing groundwater depletion. Weak regulations result in the expansion of groundwater irrigated areas and drilling of additional wells. This can more than offset water savings created by demand-side measures, or the water increases created by supply-side measures, leading to further depletion. The government of India regulates groundwater exploitation in water-stressed states through “notification” of highly overexploited blocks that restrict development of new groundwater structures (except those for drinking water). However, only about 14% of the overexploited blocks in the country are currently notified. Local level regulatory action in all threatened blocks before they reach the “overexploited” stage is vital to avert depletion. Strengthening community participation and rights in groundwater governance can improve groundwater management. World Bank projects in peninsular India, where more spread out and specifically defined hydrological sites prevail, were successful on several fronts by implementing the Participatory Groundwater Management approach (PGM). The PGM approach empowers communities in a defined aquifer area by providing governance rights, community awareness, capacity development, and knowledge and motivation for social regulation and the implementation of coordinated actions. However, there are limits to the success of the PGM approach. It did not work when local institutions were weak, supply-side interventions failed to replenish groundwater or when tanks failed to store water due to recurrent droughts, leading to increased overexploitation. The approach is also unlikely to work in areas with extensive alluvial aquifers that require coordination among large numbers of users. World Bank interventions support local institutional capacity for groundwater governance, but such institutions are often not viable after the end of the project. Two local institutions are mainly involved in groundwater management in India: Water User Associations (WUA) and groundwater management committees (GWMC). WUAs are formal institutions with a wider mandate to manage irrigation systems (surface and groundwater) and have budget allocations for maintaining the systems and collecting user charges. In contrast, GWMCs are informal groups created through World Bank–supported projects to facilitate PGM. These committees become dormant and dysfunctional once projects close. The key institutional challenge for groundwater governance is strengthening local institutions and helping the informal groups to remain viable during the post-project phase. Power subsidies for pumping groundwater accelerate the depletion of aquifers in stressed areas. Several states affected by depletion of groundwater provide free or heavily subsidized power (including solar pumps) for pumping groundwater for irrigated agriculture. This creates perverse incentives that enable overexploitation and depletion of scarce groundwater resources. In the long-run, sustainable groundwater management will depend on cross-sectoral reforms to address the water-energy-agriculture nexus and providing the right incentives to resource users. This requires better coordination of policy, market and regulatory measures as well as repurposing current distortive public support to more climate-smart solutions. Strengthening World Bank analytical support and investments in these directions would be useful for future. Groundwater extraction has allowed rural families to reduce short-term vulnerability but may incur trade-offs and increase the risk of depletion and ultimately increase vulnerability in the long term. Increased access to groundwater resources and extraction allows households to boost agricultural production in the short term. Many farm households owning wells indicated that their vulnerability is lower partly because of income growth and diversification and buffers provided by social safety nets. However, without sufficient regulation or replenishment of aquifers, the increased access to and use of groundwater for irrigation could lead to declining water tables and increasing water scarcity, which risks escalating long-term vulnerability. pictured above: Women draw water from a well in the drylands of Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India. By Yavuz Sariyildiz via Shutterstock (November 9, 2014).

Meet the Evaluator: Bekele Shiferaw discusses the nexus between natural resources and human development

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Meet the Evaluator: Bekele Shiferaw discusses the nexus between natural resources and human development
As IEG marked World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought earlier this month, we spoke with Bekele Ambaye Shiferaw, who spent much of his long career focused on environmental degradation and how to stop it. Along with describing his journey to the Independent Evaluation Group, after a 25-year career in development, Bekele spoke to us about the importance of addressing the nexus between Show MoreAs IEG marked World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought earlier this month, we spoke with Bekele Ambaye Shiferaw, who spent much of his long career focused on environmental degradation and how to stop it. Along with describing his journey to the Independent Evaluation Group, after a 25-year career in development, Bekele spoke to us about the importance of addressing the nexus between natural resource degradation and threats to human development, and the way forward. IEG · Meet The Evaluator: Bekele Ambaye Shiferaw

Early Evaluation of the World Bank’s COVID-19 Response to Save Lives and Protect Poor and Vulnerable People (Approach Paper)

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Disrupting billions of lives and livelihoods, the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) pandemic jeopardizes countries’ development gains and goals on an unprecedented scale. Restoring human capital and maintaining progress on development priorities depends on successfully containing and mitigating the effects of the pandemic, especially its toll on poor and vulnerable people. This Independent Evaluation Group Show MoreDisrupting billions of lives and livelihoods, the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) pandemic jeopardizes countries’ development gains and goals on an unprecedented scale. Restoring human capital and maintaining progress on development priorities depends on successfully containing and mitigating the effects of the pandemic, especially its toll on poor and vulnerable people. This Independent Evaluation Group evaluation will assess the World Bank’s early portfolio of COVID-19 support aimed at saving lives, protecting poor and vulnerable people, and strengthening institutions in these areas. The evaluation has one overarching question: What has been the quality of the World Bank’s early COVID-19 response in terms of saving lives and protecting poor and vulnerable people? The evaluation will conduct multilevel analyses, anchored at the country level, to triangulate evidence for early learning from the implementation of the World Bank’s support.

Mozambique Country Program Evaluation (Approach Paper)

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Mozambique’s recent history is characterized by economic growth, rising inequality, and fragility. After the end of a civil war in 1992, Mozambique enjoyed a sustained period of growth until 2014, positioning it as one of the fastest-growing countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Such growth, however, was not broadly shared and inequality increased. Fragility in Mozambique traces back to the uneven Show MoreMozambique’s recent history is characterized by economic growth, rising inequality, and fragility. After the end of a civil war in 1992, Mozambique enjoyed a sustained period of growth until 2014, positioning it as one of the fastest-growing countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Such growth, however, was not broadly shared and inequality increased. Fragility in Mozambique traces back to the uneven historical development of the state, in part shaped by geographical characteristics, and to the nature of the political settlement and the exclusionary political arrangements that it maintains. This evaluation seeks to assess the World Bank Group’s success at helping Mozambique address challenges that constrain its development. The evaluation will cover fiscal years (FY)08–21 and is timed to inform Mozambique’s next Country Partnership Framework (CPF). The evaluation will assess the Bank Group’s support for addressing three development challenges and drivers of fragility in Mozambique: (i) rural poverty linked to weak agricultural productivity and regional inequalities; (ii) weak institutions and governance; and (iii) vulnerability to natural disasters and climate change.

Towards Productive, Inclusive, and Sustainable Farms and Agribusiness Firms: An Evaluation of the World Bank Group’s Support for Development of Agri-Food Economies (2010-2020) – Approach Paper

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Sustainable development of the agricultural sector and the associated agrifood industry is key to ending hunger and poverty and meeting other global goals, such as those related to climate change. Fostering broad-based agricultural development requires transforming agrifood systems because of their critical role in economic growth, employment, and sustainable agricultural development. The World Show MoreSustainable development of the agricultural sector and the associated agrifood industry is key to ending hunger and poverty and meeting other global goals, such as those related to climate change. Fostering broad-based agricultural development requires transforming agrifood systems because of their critical role in economic growth, employment, and sustainable agricultural development. The World Bank Group has been a major supporter of previous efforts to develop agriculture and the broader agrifood system economies. The objective of the evaluation is to assess how well the World Bank Group identifies the needs, addresses the constraints, and achieves results in supporting agrifood system development, defined as the development of more productive, inclusive, and sustainable farms and agribusiness firms. More specifically, the evaluation aims to (i) assess the relevance of the World Bank Group in identifying and addressing the key AFS development challenges of raising productivity, improving inclusion and reducing environmental sustainability threats especially from climate change; (ii) assess the effectiveness of World Bank Group support in making AFS more productive, inclusive, and sustainable; and (iii) identify lessons of experience, success factors, and constraints on effectiveness.

Four Lessons from the Sahel on Land Restoration Programs and their Impact on Vulnerable Populations

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Four Lessons from the Sahel on Land Restoration Programs and their Impact on Vulnerable Populations
World Bank Group support to developing countries to manage their natural resources is critical for poverty reduction. A recent IEG evaluation assessed how well the World Bank has addressed natural resource degradation to reduce the vulnerabilities of resource-dependent people. On Desertification and Drought Day, we present the following four lessons drawn from IEG's assessment of World Bank Show MoreWorld Bank Group support to developing countries to manage their natural resources is critical for poverty reduction. A recent IEG evaluation assessed how well the World Bank has addressed natural resource degradation to reduce the vulnerabilities of resource-dependent people. On Desertification and Drought Day, we present the following four lessons drawn from IEG's assessment of World Bank support for the Great Green Wall. Decades ago, several African Heads of State envisioned, and eventually lent their support to, the development of a Great Green Wall: a large belt of trees that stretches across twelve states of the Sahel. The concept of the Great Green Wall was developed to combat land degradation and desertification of the Sahel, a concept that has grown in importance as the threats posed by climate change intensify. Twenty-one African countries have signed on to the initiative, along with at least 11 international partners; including the African Union, European Union, and the World Bank.    These are four key lessons that can inform future investments in the Great Green Wall:   1. A precise understanding of the change in vegetation cover across the Sahel, attributable to donor investments in the Great Green Wall, has been limited because of an underinvestment in measurement. Earth observations combined with site observations show that the World Bank’s support for the Great Green Wall has been successful. Vegetation has been successfully established, land has been rehabilitated, and the density of trees and shrubs have increased dramatically at rehabilitation sites. However, projects did not implement measurement mechanisms to establish how much of the increase of vegetation can be attributed to donor programs versus other important variables including changing rainfall.   Watch: Discussion on the role of increased rainfall on the greening of the Sahel and the need for sustainable practices with professor Matt Turner, from the Department of Geology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Oumarou Moumouni, member of the development NGO Groupe de Recherche, d'Etudes d'Action pour le Développement in Niger.  {"preview_thumbnail":"/sites/default/files/Data/styles/video_embed_wysiwyg_preview/public/video_thumbnails/9D0oF2fUcu4.jpg?itok=BZuE1M4A","video_url":"https://youtu.be/9D0oF2fUcu4","settings":{"responsive":0,"width":"854","height":"480","autoplay":0},"settings_summary":["Embedded Video (854x480)."]} 2. Land management practices that seek to restore degraded land can run the risk of exacerbating vulnerability. Just prior to the coronavirus pandemic, there were 30 million food insecure people in the Sahel. This large cohort consists of farmers, agro-pastoral, and nomadic populations – all of whom engage in traditional land-use arrangements that provide mutual food and livelihood benefits. In these settings, even the most degraded land has value: these are important areas of passage and grazing for livestock, particularly during the rainy season, and are sources of wild plants and wood gathered by women. But the use of area enclosures – a land management practice that seeks to restore degraded land by excluding livestock and humans from openly accessing it in the short to medium term – runs the risk of exacerbating vulnerability; and in the absence of good land governance, possibly causing harm  Watch: IEG’s evaluation analyst Joy Butscher explains some of the impacts of land management practices on pastoral populations.   {"preview_thumbnail":"/sites/default/files/Data/styles/video_embed_wysiwyg_preview/public/video_thumbnails/n_vBYKCnMkA.jpg?itok=hb5_7ceT","video_url":"https://youtu.be/n_vBYKCnMkA","settings":{"responsive":0,"width":"854","height":"480","autoplay":0},"settings_summary":["Embedded Video (854x480)."]} 3. Increasing the value of degraded land can lead to predation by elites and to encroachment by non-traditional farmers, which risks displacing the local population.   Such was the case in Niger, where land was effectively restored, but where parcels were also sold outside of the community, in areas that lacked good land governance. Predation also occurs as a result of decisions to support crop agriculture alongside tree planting. While land restoration activities took place on communal land, the introduction of “inter cropping” facilitated individualized claims on community land. Projects should be designed with an understanding of customary, flexible tenure arrangements and the coping strategies of vulnerable resource users who access degraded lands as a social safety net.  Importantly, that emphasis should be placed on ensuring that clear, enforceable land-use agreements are in place prior to land restoration activities, to protect the land-use rights of the most vulnerable.  Watch: Professor Matt Turner, from the Department of Geology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, on land governance in Niger. {"preview_thumbnail":"/sites/default/files/Data/styles/video_embed_wysiwyg_preview/public/video_thumbnails/xGRxN2Gb0tU.jpg?itok=eRlfPMp2","video_url":"https://youtu.be/xGRxN2Gb0tU","settings":{"responsive":0,"width":"854","height":"480","autoplay":0},"settings_summary":["Embedded Video (854x480)."]}  4. Because land restoration mainly benefits those that have access to land, some women and youth are especially disadvantaged in the Sahel.   In Niger, a very large number of women are forced to fend for themselves and their families because their husbands and sons have migrated to other West African countries to look for work. Projects that support land and resource restoration can ensure that women and youth benefit by addressing participation barriers, linked to social and cultural norms. For example, since in some conservative areas, some women’s participation in cash for work programs is prohibited, programs must propose alternative income generating options to ensure equity.  Watch: Oumou Moumouni, from the UN Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs speaks of the disadvantages women face in the Sahel. {"preview_thumbnail":"/sites/default/files/Data/styles/video_embed_wysiwyg_preview/public/video_thumbnails/TyL0DXPV2LA.jpg?itok=Vo1IqiJT","video_url":"https://youtu.be/TyL0DXPV2LA","settings":{"responsive":0,"width":"854","height":"480","autoplay":0},"settings_summary":["Embedded Video (854x480)."]}   Photo credit:  Rafe H Andrews, Dawning

Results and Performance of the World Bank Group 2021 – Concept Note

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The Results and Performance of the World Bank Group (RAP) report is the annual review of evidence from IEG evaluation and validation work on the development effectiveness of the World Bank Group (WBG). It will be the eleventh in a series that began in 2010; it will also be the second report departing from the exclusive traditional focus on ratings to also provide additional evidence on the Show MoreThe Results and Performance of the World Bank Group (RAP) report is the annual review of evidence from IEG evaluation and validation work on the development effectiveness of the World Bank Group (WBG). It will be the eleventh in a series that began in 2010; it will also be the second report departing from the exclusive traditional focus on ratings to also provide additional evidence on the nature of intended outcomes across the WBG. RAP 2021 will build and expand on the RAP 2020 innovations by refining the classification framework for intended outcomes and integrating analysis of existing ratings (trends) with the outcome classification analysis. Like past RAP reports, RAP 2021 will provide an analysis of project ratings and factors associated with performance as measured by those ratings. Expanding on the past, RAP 2021 will analyze and interpret these ratings through the lens created by the refined typology of intended outcomes. This lens would enable an examination of ratings that takes into account portfolio composition in terms of the type (classification) of intended outcomes, as well as the likelihood of achieving those intended outcomes. In other words, RAP 2021 aims at providing a joint assessment of ratings and the risk-return profile of the portfolio generating those ratings.

Mongolia CLR Review FY13-21

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This review examines the implementation of the FY13-FY17 Mongolia Country Partnership Strategy (CPS), which was endorsed by the World Bank Group (WBG)’s Board of Executive Directors in April 2012, updated in the Performance and Learning Review (PLR) of December 2016 (which extended the CPS by six months) and further revised in the PLR of November 2019. At that time, the CPS period was extended Show MoreThis review examines the implementation of the FY13-FY17 Mongolia Country Partnership Strategy (CPS), which was endorsed by the World Bank Group (WBG)’s Board of Executive Directors in April 2012, updated in the Performance and Learning Review (PLR) of December 2016 (which extended the CPS by six months) and further revised in the PLR of November 2019. At that time, the CPS period was extended retroactively by three years until December 31, 2020. The CPS had three Focus Areas: (1) enhance Mongolia’s capacity to manage the mining economy sustainably and transparently; (2) build a sustained and diversified basis for economic growth and employment in urban and rural areas; and (3) address vulnerabilities and growing inequality through improved access to services and better service delivery, safety net provision, and improved disaster risk management. The CPS objectives were well aligned with the country’s own development goals as set out in various government programs and strategies.

Madagascar: Third Environment Program Support Project (PPAR)

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The closure of the Third Environment Program Support Project (EP3) brought an end to the World Bank’s programmatic series of loans to implement the Madagascar National Environmental Action Program (NEAP). The Madagascar NEAP—implemented between 1990 and 2015—aimed to “reconcile the population with its environment to achieve sustainable development” by simultaneously conserving the country’s Show MoreThe closure of the Third Environment Program Support Project (EP3) brought an end to the World Bank’s programmatic series of loans to implement the Madagascar National Environmental Action Program (NEAP). The Madagascar NEAP—implemented between 1990 and 2015—aimed to “reconcile the population with its environment to achieve sustainable development” by simultaneously conserving the country’s critical biodiversity and improving the livelihoods of local communities dependent on natural resources. The World Bank’s programmatic series of loans to implement the NEAP is considered a flagship program because of the focus on its long-term objective of biodiversity conservation, depth of financing, innovations introduced, and the convening role played by the World Bank in coordinating donor support. This evaluation focuses on the overall effectiveness of EP3’s simplified and revised objectives and outcomes regarding improved biodiversity conservation and livelihoods. In particular, the PPAR focuses on EP3’s support for the establishment or extension of PAs to reduce deforestation. It tests the project assumptions that the critical PAs supported by the project can reduce deforestation. The PPAR also assesses how the EP3 supported communities through CDAs. Project ratings for the Third Environment Program Support Project are as follows: Outcome was moderately unsatisfactory, Overall efficiency was modest, Bank performance was moderately unsatisfactory, and Quality of monitoring and evaluation was negligible. The assessment offers the following lessons: (i) A project designed and implemented with a narrow focus on the protection of biodiversity resources without addressing the underlying human pressures on those resources is unlikely to achieve the long-term goal of biodiversity conservation. (ii) When PAs restrict the long-term access of rural households to forest resources that are indispensable for their livelihood, safeguard activities are inappropriate instruments for promoting the sustainable use of forest resources in the long term. (iii) Any intervention supporting the conservation of biodiversity in Madagascar is likely to be ineffective without complementary efforts to improve the policy environment that shapes incentives for sustainable biodiversity resource management. (iv) The overarching objective of a programmatic series to support higher-level development objectives around biodiversity conservation is undermined when design issues, such as overambition and complexity, persist across all projects in the series.

The Natural Resource Degradation and Vulnerability Nexus:

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The Natural Resource Degradation and Vulnerability Nexus:
This evaluation assesses how well the World Bank has addressed natural resource degradation to reduce the vulnerabilities of resource-dependent people. This evaluation assesses how well the World Bank has addressed natural resource degradation to reduce the vulnerabilities of resource-dependent people.