ADB-aided projects ‘not helping’ target groups

Kathmandu, January 11:

Water-related projects, supported by Asian Development Bank, (ADB) in Nepal are found to be poor in implementation, condisreing the pro-poor, pro-gender, participatory and anti-corruption perspectives, according to a review report.

According to the report on a study on implementation of ADB’s Water Policy, designed to review projects related with drinking water, the implementation rate of comprehensive water policy, cross-sector coordination mechanisms, review and revision of water legislation, autonomy and accountability of service providers, regulatory agency, participation of civil society as well as capacity building were below par. Only water action agenda, cost recovery and phased elimination of direct subsidies to the poor were at a high implementation rate.

“There is no strong mechanism to ensure transparency or curb corruption. During the study, the team did not find any case of ADB support focussed on strengthening women’s abilities or countering the lack of tools and guidelines for implementation of the participatory process,” said Sudhindra Sharma of Interdisciplinary Analysts (IDA), adding that Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Project National Policy 2004 has mentioned that norms will be developed in identifying the poorest households. This provision has not come into effect yet.

Water Aid Nepal (WAN) with IDA, an independent research institution, recently conducted a Nepal Case Study on various sub-projects in seven towns — Panchakanya, Indrapur and Jhumka of the eastern region; Ratna Nagar of the central region and Jarbuta, Khajura and Birendranagar of the mid-western region.

“It concludes that ADB seems to exert greater influence on policies than practices,” Dr Sharma told this daily, adding most of the ADB projects are found designed and implemented on the basis of cost-recovery.

Similar case studies are done also in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. A synthesis report of the three countries is being sent to ADB, which will help the donor agency revise its policies regarding partner countries.

The study also concluded that Nepal is moving into the debt trap and that it has already been named as a moderate to high indebted country.

“Water quality of some of the ADB-supported projects should be improved. There is a need to strengthen the capacity of Department of Water Supply and Sewerage in monitoring,” the report recommended.

It also stressed that projects are delayed due to seeking tenders, centralized decision-making and bandhs. According to the report, sanitation components lag behind water supply in Nepal’s project choice and sewage systems.

According to James Wicken, coordinator of the study for Water Asia, ADB is the largest multilateral lending agency in Nepal. During the 1990s, about 40 percent of multilateral aid was from ADB.

On an average, it disbursed $75 million a year. And public sector loans were approved totalling approximately $2.1 billion (as of 2003). In that period, 223 technical assistance totaling $109.5 million was provided.

“The study revealed some outstanding facts about the projects going on in Nepal, especially in water and sanitation sections,” said Wicken.