Transformational development projects and water resources in drylands

Vivid and its partners the Sustainable Development and Policy Institute, Pakistan, were engaged by the Overseas Development Institute to assess the planning of large-scale ‘transformational’ infrastructure programmes in water-stressed regions, with an in-depth case study on the $46bn China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Transformational programmes can cause a step change in economic development, with potential attendant benefits to the poor and the environment. However, without proactive planning and resource management policies there is a risk that countries will miss out on one-off opportunities to extend water access to the poor and incur irreversible ecological damage by locking in inefficient technologies and breaching limits to ecosystems. A review of public information on CPEC and interviews with senior officials suggest these risks are pertinent to the CPEC programme: though Pakistan has planned water infrastructure around the CPEC programme and has instituted user tariffs for irrigators to encourage the use of efficient technology, inflexible approaches to planning without sufficient long-term data on water supply and demand, weaknesses in groundwater management, and a lack of representation of the poor in planning decisions are serious causes for concern.

Date: September 2017


Overseas Development Institute




Sustainable development


Central & South Asia