Thursday, March 29, 2012

World Bank to Support Odisha’s Sustainable Development Agenda

BHUBANESWAR, March 28, 2012: World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick today pledged to step up knowledge and financial support for Odisha in response to the needs of the Government in pursuing sustainable and inclusive development.

Zoellick visited Odisha to gain a firsthand view of some of the state’s economic and social challenges and to find out how best the Bank Group could support the Government. Zoellick held talks with Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and other senior government officials and also had the chance to see efforts to safeguard an area, including Asia’s second largest mangrove eco-system, known to be the most diverse in the world.

The Government of Odisha has taken significant steps to combat poverty and to ensure social justice. This is evident in the areas of food security, agricultural production and women empowerment. However, some challenges still remain – especially in the area of agricultural productivity and providing access to infrastructure and public services,” Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said. “The World Bank has been a development partner for Odisha and we hope to continue a mutual engagement in addressing these issues.”

Commenting on the nearly 20-year partnership between the State of Odisha and Bank Group, Zoellick complimented the Government of Odisha on the state’s development gains over the last decade, and acknowledged the challenges ahead.

"Odisha has made good development progress and the Government should be congratulated for achieving fiscal stability and for its focused efforts to overcome poverty,” Zoellick said. “Odisha can contribute significantly to India’s economic growth and development. The state's vast mineral resources can make a substantial contribution to India's growth in strategic sectors, and also help mitigate global pressure on commodity prices. Putting these resources to good use requires addressing trade- offs between faster growth, the environment, and the sharing of the benefits of growth among its people.”

Zoellick said Odisha’s experience in forging a growth path, both inclusive and sustainable, would provide important lessons for other countries and states that are also rich in natural resources but face deep pockets of poverty.

His discussions with the Government focused on how the Bank Group, which has a US$600 million program in the state, can better support the Government of Odisha as it addresses its development challenges. The sectors identified for possible future focus include water management, urban water, and mining.

A significant share of Odisha’s growth will be driven by the private sector. The Bank Group’s private sector arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), has initiated a new Odisha Inclusive Growth Partnership to help the state generate potentially transformative investments in key areas like agribusiness, downstream metal manufacturing, and tourism, as well as make it easier for small and medium scale companies to operate.

Earlier in the day, Zoellick witnessed firsthand the development challenges facing Odisha and efforts being made to address them. On a boat ride on the Bhitarkanika River, Zoellick saw efforts to protect against coastal erosion in this area that is Asia’s second largest mangrove eco-system and rich in biodiversity.

Under the World Bank-supported Integrated Coastal Zone Management Project (ICZMP), work has started to conserve mangroves so that they are a bulwark against the erosion of productive land. The ICZMP is supporting the state’s efforts to ensure that the conservation effort does not harm the livelihoods of people in coastal communities. Zoellick met people from the fishing communities involved in conservation measures and members of women’s self-help groups, set up under the World Bank supported Odisha Rural Livelihood Project (TRIPTI), who have benefited from collective action and activities to improve their livelihoods.

I was impressed to meet people in the communities who are learning new skills to begin new livelihood activities that can support the conservation efforts,” said Zoellick. “What is remarkable is that despite the challenges they face, they have enthusiastically embraced the conservation efforts through being a part of eco-development committees, where they receive training and incentives. They today play a central role in mangrove protection, moving from being resource users to resource managers,” he said.

The Bank in Odisha

The World Bank has been supporting the development program of the Government of Odisha since the mid-1990s, through investment projects in irrigation, power, health, roads and education as well as through technical assistance, policy-based loans and credits.

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