Failing aid projects with donor money, also due to floods in Pakistan

In Pakistan, after the extreme rainfall in recent months, large areas of land are still flooded, especially in the southern province of Sindh. The government has asked the international community for emergency assistance and money for adaptation to climate change. Help is very welcome, say local experts and activists. But they warn that international aid has often overshot its purpose in the past.

In the town of Badin, in the province of Sindh, major problems have arisen due to the construction of a channel system that was co-financed by the World Bank. โ€œIt was designed to remove excess water and salt water from agricultural land,โ€ says agricultural development professor Muhammad Ismail Kumbhar, who hails from Badin. โ€œBut there are design flaws, so things are now flooded here.โ€

According to him, the biggest problem is that the natural water drainage is cut off and broken down through the channels in several places. โ€œAs a result, the water cannot go any way. With a better system, all this water would just flow to the sea.โ€

The canal system runs through the left bank of the Indus River delta with several branches. It was built in the 80s and 90s with international donor money. According to Kumbhar, there have been frequent floods in Badin since then โ€œThe World Bank visited here and acknowledged that there are design flaws.โ€

With a boat, Kumbhar shows where the errors are:


World Bank was also contradicted in Karachi, a city with around 16 million inhabitants. The bank finances several projects in the city, including cleaning and improving the sewerage system. Karachi has seven branches of the Indus River Delta that run towards the sea. As the city grew, those branches have increasingly turned into open sewers.

Because in previous years these streams were always flooded during the rainy season, she took the initiative to clean and widen them. Local residents‘ houses were previously demolished in at least two places. That sparked a lot of criticism and the World Bank was asked for an explanation.

The bank distanced itself from all work that had been expelled from home and emphasized that these specific projects were not funded by them.

A team of experts from the UN also criticized the evictions in 2021. โ€œRegulating informal housing is part of building a society that is resilient to the effects of climate change,โ€ the UN staff said.

More vulnerable

So far, work on the sewers only makes local residents more vulnerable to climate change, says activist Feraz Azam. He points to the mud and debris that have fallen into the water. โ€œAs a result, the houses were flooded even worse this year than in previous years.โ€

He finds it contradictory that people were expelled from the home for the sewer project. โ€œThis project was also intended to improve people’s resilience to climate. But thousands are now homeless and therefore even more vulnerable to extreme heat and rain.โ€

With the Pakistani government asking for more donor money and loans for climate adaptation again, Azam and Kumbhar are concerned about how this money will be spent.

According to Kumbhar, the design of the drainage canals in Badin did not seek advice from the local population. โ€œWe appreciate the efforts of international donors, but how much longer do poor people have to beg for help?โ€ His advice: โ€œListen to the voice of the people and ask the Pakistani government to restore the natural waterwaysโ€.