NGOs criticise the Bank’s water strategy

24 July 2002

On 25 March the World Bank released a draft version of its Water Resources Sector Strategy (WRSS). This is meant to translate the principles of the Bank’s 1993 Water Resources Management Policy Paper (WRMPP) into action. After releasing its draft strategy, the Bank held consultations in various countries which have been criticized as limited in number and attendance. The revised version of the WRSS will be sent to the Bank’s Executive Board for approval in August, to be followed by a Water and Sanitation Business Strategy by next June.

The WRSS has been strongly criticised by some NGOs for its misrepresentation of the principles identified in the 1993 WRMPP and for its distortion of the findings of the World Commission on Dams, which was supposed to be another basis for its policy recommendations in WRSS. Patrick McCully of International Rivers Network commented, “the WRSS claims to be based on a ‘broad global consensus’ on water management yet fails even to mention the conclusions of important global water events and processes such as the International Conference on Freshwater held in Bonn in December 2001 and the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council’s Vision 21.”

While there is a consensus amongst organisations outside of the Bank on the merits of low-cost, low-output technologies such as rainwater harvesting for poor and isolated communities, the Bank continues to support high-cost projects, including large dams. Another predictable emphasis of the WRSS is on increased privatisation. However, as critics point out, the people that are most in need of water are the rural poor, from whom corporations are rarely able to make a profit.

IRN critique of WRSS

WB information on the WRSS Consultations

Citizens’ Network on Essential Services, critique of WRSS