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World Bank lauds Saudi National Water Strategy, recommends other nations follow suit

RIYADH: As the world faces a severe water resource management crisis, Saudi Arabia has fared well in preserving the sector with the National Water Strategy, said a top official of the World Bank Group.

Speaking to Arab News at the Future Desalination International Conference in Riyadh, Saroj Kumar Jha, the global director of WBG’s water global practice, said that the world needs better water resource management, and the Kingdom is a good example to follow.

“I think the work that Saudi Arabia has done in putting together the institutional framework, the National Water Strategy and the Water Law are very good examples that other countries can follow,” Jha said.

Early this month, the Kingdom’s National Water Co. announced its plans to roll out 1,429 projects with a total value exceeding SR108 billion ($28.7 billion) as part of the National Water Strategy and Vision 2030 plans.

This initiative includes expanding the water and wastewater networks coverage and increasing the sewage treatment plant’s capacity, in addition to extending water services coverage to all citizens and residents across the Kingdom.

Jha stressed the importance of water management as it is essential for human life and significantly impacts the economy and climate change.

“Climate change has added another layer of complexity in terms of the risks for the water resources. We have more droughts, floods and extreme events happening,” he explained.

The World Bank is playing a considerable role in supporting developing countries to place appropriate policy frameworks, regulations and institutions to manage water resources more efficiently.

“We are a global institution in 200 countries. We work on broader development issues. Water is just one sector. But we also work on energy, poverty reduction, job creation, public health and education. So, we have a very diverse portfolio,” Jha said.

“In the water sector, we have a portfolio of about $60 billion projects in these countries. And as part of our engagement in these countries, we provide global expertise. We provide global knowledge. We help them to set up the right kind of policies and institutions. And we also provide financing to implement water resource management projects,” he added.

Jha said that the water desalination sector needs technological advancement to reduce the cost of water production and its effect on climate change.

“I think the cost of desalination and its environmental concerns need to be addressed adequately,” he added.

He believes this could be achieved by utilizing entrepreneurial talent and innovation through private investments and partnerships similar to what is happening in the Kingdom.

“I’m very impressed. And I want to see how we can export all these good practices from Saudi Arabia to other countries and that’s why I’m here,” Jha said.

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