“When I was a teenager in 1991, we didn’t have running water in Corbeanca, my village, 30 km from Bucharest,” says Mariana Gavrilescu. “A lot has changed since then, all across Romania. Now it’s unthinkable for us to have wells in our front yards.”
Efficient municipal services are critical to quality of life. They are also vital for helping businesses – and the local economy – to thrive.
The EBRD’s work in Romania over the past 25 years is a prime example of how we can cooperate with our donors to reform a sector from the ground up. Together with the EU’s Cohesion Fund, we helped to raise the quality of drinking water and expand wastewater collection and treatment across the country. These activities have benefited more than 10 million people.
Advancing transition through knowledge transfer
The EBRD encourages improvements in the municipal and environmental infrastructure sector, from central Europe to Central Asia and the southern and eastern Mediterranean (SEMED) region– and our donors actively support these measures.
Boosting knowledge among municipal officials is a prerequisite to ensuring that operations are sustainable in the long run. In 2015 Swedish funding helped us organise a seminar in Tbilisi that allowed utility companies to share their experiences, transfer knowledge of best practices and learn how to provide more efficient services.
Elsewhere, the TaiwanBusiness-EBRD Technical Cooperation Fund supported several “pairing” visits in 2015. One such event showed Kazakh and Belarusian public transport providers how their local counterparts in the Eastern Electronic Toll Collection Company operate their electronic payment collection system for Taiwanese freeways.
Better municipal services
Donor support to EBRD investments, both through technical cooperation (TC) and co-financing grants, brought concrete improvements for people across the Bank’s region in 2015.
In Central Asia, the European Union (EU), Switzerland, the Early Transition Countries Fund and other donors support the modernisation of water infrastructure and services in cities outside the capitals – among them Naryn, Batken, Cholpon-Ata and Osh in the Kyrgyz Republic. Once completed, these projects will benefit thousands of people. In addition, a study funded by the EU looked at potential investments in the municipal sector in Turkmenistan.
Donors also continued to support the modernisation of public transport – for instance in Cairo, which is notorious for its traffic jams. The EU, Germany and the SEMED Multi-Donor Account provided funding to help make the metro more sustainable and efficient. The activities are part of an integrated approach to reform public transport services in Greater Cairo and attract private sector investments.
As well as our regular donors, including the EU, Sweden, Switzerland, Austria and Taipei China, we attracted new support for EBRD activities in the municipal sector. The Netherlands, for example, is funding TC activities through its Facility for Infrastructure Development (ORIO) to improve wastewater treatment for the city of Cazin in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Global transport: modern and sustainable
Improving cross-border links for people and commerce remains one of our priorities. In the Western Balkans, for example, the EBRD and its donors work continuously to interconnect local economies and link them to European markets. At the same time, we support the development of sustainable transport solutions.
In 2015 we provided a €80 million loan for the modernisation of motorways in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The roads are part of arterial transport route Corridor Vc, which connects some of the country’s biggest cities to the EU. Along with the EU and Italy, the EBRD has made an important contribution to improve this connection since the early 2000s, with notable success: travel time from Zenica to the capital Sarajevo has more than halved.
In Morocco, we invested €200 million to finance a new port on the Mediterranean coast near Nador. The project supports the construction of modern shipment terminals and measures to ensure climate resilience. The SEMED Multi-Donor Account and the EBRD Shareholder Special Fund provide funding for management support and the implementation of an environmental and social action plan.
Power and energy
The rehabilitation of 12 small and medium-sized hydropower plants in Morocco is another example of how to integrate climate resilience with infrastructure investment.
The recent EBRD investment with Office National de l’Eléctricité et de l’Eau Potable was accompanied by TC, funded by Austria. It aims to assess climate change risks related to the operation of plants and identify measures to build resilience.
Furthermore, the EBRD and the Clean Technology Fund supported the first large-scale solar power plant in Kazakhstan with loans of well over €80 million. With powerful sunlight and winds, southern Kazakhstan offers excellent potential for such renewable energy projects.
Improving lives in changing economies
All of these infrastructure services make a real difference to people’s everyday lives. The activities of the Bank and its donors act as a catalyst, attracting investment to the sector and accelerating tangible progress.
“Our experience of municipal services has dramatically changed over the last 25 years,” says Felix Stroe, President of the Romanian Water Association. “We tackled the challenge of our derelict pipe network, with thousands of kilometres leaking as a result of under-investment in Soviet times. 32 per cent of Romanians, especially in remote villages, had no access to proper drinking water. Now, virtually everyone has – and we are very proud of this result.”