ADB’s Investment for Building Urban Resilience in Pacific to Hit $900 Million

New Delhi: The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and cofinancing partners’ investment to make Pacific towns and cities more livable through improved essential services is poised to reach $900 million by the end of 2022, according to a new report.

ADB’s Pacific Urban Update 2020 details a raft of extensive investments across the region—both ongoing and upcoming—which will improve water supply, sanitation, and other municipal infrastructure and services in urban areas. The report highlights how integration and coordination, and an emphasis on building capacity to plan and manage urban development, are building urban resilience by addressing the root causes of vulnerability and fragility.

“More people moving to cities and towns risks the growth of underserved informal settlements and increased spread of disease, but it also presents an opportunity to improve lives through the sustainable delivery of accessible services,” said the Urban Division Director of ADB’s Pacific Department Jingmin Huang. “By helping countries provide safe, efficient, and reliable urban services, and by better managing the growth of towns and cities, we are building strong and healthy economies to better manage their isolation and limited resources.”

The report states significant urban planning, investment, and institutional reforms are needed to improve access to, and the quality of, urban services in Pacific cities and towns. It says to build urban resilience today, and in the future, a focus on disaster preparedness and the impacts of climate change is needed.

The report examines the case-by-case solutions ADB is developing for each Pacific country’s unique situation through 17 ongoing urban development projects, estimated at more than $320 million. Another 26 projects, estimated at almost $580 million, are set to begin before 2022. ADB’s cofinancing partners include the Governments of Australia and Ireland, the Global Environment Facility, the Green Climate Fund, the European Union, the European Investment Bank, and the World Bank.

In Fiji, the $405 million Urban Water Supply and Wastewater Management Investment Program is building and renovating infrastructure to improve access to safe drinking water and sewerage for the people of greater Suva. Along with a new, climate-resilient water intake station and an expanded wastewater treatment plant, the project is improving the Water Authority of Fiji’s management and service delivery capacities. Meanwhile, the proposed Nadi Flood Alleviation Project will deliver structural and other measures to protect Fiji’s fourth-largest urban center from increasingly regular flooding.

Major water supply projects in Kiribati, and Solomon Islands are also detailed in the report.

In Kiribati, following on from a $26 million sanitation project, the $62 million South Tarawa Water Supply Project will improve the health of the densely populated Kiribati capital’s population. The project will build new climate-resilient and sustainable water supply and sanitation infrastructure, improve urban planning capabilities, and undertake community engagement and awareness raising on health and hygiene issues.

Meanwhile, a $93 million project in Solomon Islands will improve access to safe water and sanitation in the capital Honiara and five other urban centers, and help Solomon Water become financially sustainable and technically proficient. Residents in Honiara will also benefit from a $10 million project to build priority infrastructure identified in the government’s plan for the capital.

In Palau, the report details an urban planning project for Koror and Babeldaob Island that is working with the government to develop a strategy and action plan that integrates spatial and geographic information system maps. The project focuses on maintaining a balance between economic, cultural, and physical environments while optimizing scarce resources to support economic growth and increased well-being.

This holistic focus is also reflected in the $16 million Integrated Urban Resilience Sector Project in Tonga. Along with improving water supply and waste services, this project is working to build knowledge and capabilities to manage these services and develop associated policies as needs change in the future.

The report notes that improved water and sanitation through projects such as these, as well as better planning of urban areas, will reduce the risk of communicable diseases and increase local capacity to manage disease and illness, such as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

ADB is also working to strengthen regional coordination and integration by building urban planning, assessment, and development capacities; developing a subregional solid waste management strategy; establishing regional networks; and producing knowledge products on improving urban services in Pacific countries.

ADB is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty. Established in 1966, it is owned by 68 members—49 from the region.