By Asma’u Ahmad
The World Bank on Tuesday held a workshop for government officials to acquaint them with the bank’s new environmental and social requirements for its financed projects in Nigeria.
The World Bank Nigeria Country Director, Mr Rachid Benmessaoud at the workshop in Abuja, said the bank would apply the new Environmental and Social Framework (ESF) to new investment projects it finances from October.
He said the new requirements seek to protect people and the environment from potential adverse impact that could arise from World Bank-financed projects and promote sustainable development.
“Time and again, we have seen that investment projects are more sustainable and have a greater development impact when the environment is protected, and when communities and people are engaged.
“The ESF is a great opportunity to work together with the Nigerian Government to strengthen its environmental and social systems, and help build the country’s capacity to implement programmes in a sustainable way and to achieve stronger results,” he said.
He said also that the framework would assist the borrowing governments to manage certain environmental and social risks in investment projects proposed for World Bank financing support.
Meanwhile, the Minister of State for Environment, Alhaji Usman Ibrahim Jibril, said that the government was in support of any policy that focuses on environmental and social protection.
“Many states in the country are being affected by climate change with significant impact on the environment.
“The ESF is a welcome development as it will give us a chance to manage the effect of climate change or ignore it at our own peril,’’ he said.
Also, the World Bank Lead Environmental Specialist, Mr Africa Olojoba, said that under the new framework, the bank would classify all projects into four classes, that is; high risk, substantial risk, moderate or low risk.
He said that in determining the appropriate risk classification, the bank would take into account relevant issues such as the type, location, sensitivity and scale of the project.
According to him, the ESF has 10 standards which a project must meet before the bank finances, and these include environmental and social risk assessment as well as labour and working conditions.
He also said that resource efficiency, pollution prevention, community health and safety standards, biodiversity conservation and sustainable management of living natural resources requirements must be met.
In addition, Olojoba said any new project must meet World Bank’s requirement for protection of cultural heritage, land acquisition, restrictions on land use and involuntary resettlement among others.
He said that henceforth, the ESF would form part of loan agreement developed between any government and the World Bank.
In Aug. 2016, the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors approved the ESF, which would go into effect in 2018 and progressively replace the bank’s Safeguards.
The ESF is the result of extensive consultations conducted by the World Bank, with engagement around the world with governments, development practitioners, and civil society groups, reaching nearly 8,000 stakeholders in 63 countries.
The new framework provides a broad coverage of environmental and social issues, including important advances on transparency, non-discrimination, social inclusion, public participation, and accountability.
The ESF also places more emphasis on strengthening Borrower governments’ own capacity to deal with environmental and social issues.