Ministry of Water & Environment Winner of the 2005 World Bank Development Prize [Archives:2005/855/Health]

June 30 2005

By Peer Gatter
With its project proposal for conserving Yemen's scarce water resources by reusing cleansing water from Masjids (Mosques) for irrigation, the Ministry of Water and Environment won the very competitive Development Marketplace Price of the World Bank for Innovations for Livelihoods in a Sustainable Environment. The US $ 127,000 project which was submitted within the Biodiversity theme, was selected among 2,700 proposals, submitted by 136 countries and is one of the 31 proposals which won.

It is the first time that Yemen has won a price for development work on an international platform. The Deputy Minister for Environment Affairs, Dr. Hussein Al-Guneid, who led the Yemeni delegation to Washington D.C. and received the competitive price on May 25 and was thus very proud of Yemen's achievement. “Winning this price”, Dr. Al-Guneid said, “showed that Yemen is among the world's leading countries when it comes to creatively approaching critical development issues. We did work very hard on developing this project”.

The project will develop grey-water treatment and distribution facilities to recover grey water from mosques in 3 pilot communities. In doing so, it will increase incomes by adding irrigated land and increasing water availability.

“Considering that there are no less than 75,000 Masjids in Yemen”, says Dr. Al-Guneid, “'the potential for saving and reusing water is nearly unlimited''.

“'We estimated that by successfully reusing grey-water consumed by all these Masjids, a large volume of good quality water which is currently used for green areas in cities and towns can be saved for food production”.

To promote social acceptance and to increase understanding of grey-water use and sustainable water management, the project intends to conduct a public awareness campaign and seek the support of religious leaders, sheikhs and government officials. In addition, the Ministry of Water and Environment will disseminate the project experience and results to other communities.

World Bank President James D. Wolfensohn, who handed the price to Yemen's delegation said: “The Development Marketplace gives us a chance to meet a lot of people who are on the front lines of bringing ideas and understanding that would never be thought of in Washington, London or Paris.”

The 2005 Washington, D.C. Marketplace reflects the World Bank's commitment to promote environmentally and socially responsible growth. Poor people directly depend on natural resources for their livelihoods and are severely affected by environmental degradation.

Seventy-eight finalists came to Washington for the two-day competition to showcase their unique ideas to bring renewable energy to small communities, reduce air and water pollution, promote sustainable agriculture, and raise environmental awareness. The 31 winners of the World Bank's 2005 Development Marketplace Global Competition walked away with nearly US$4 million in grants. Their ideas ranged from transforming discarded charcoal dust into low-cost, clean burning fuel briquettes in Kenya to environmentally sound crab fishing in the Philippines.

The Development Marketplace's approach complements the World Bank's broader work by focusing on grassroots initiatives and working directly with local organizations that implement projects on the ground. “I was really inspired by the creativity and passion that goes into these projects. These innovative solutions will hopefully be expanded through not only World Bank projects, but other development-oriented institutions,” Warren Evans, World Bank Director of the Environment Sector, said about all of the finalists.

“If all we do is more of the same and we just want to make them bigger, we will miss out on huge opportunities to make the world a better place. The world will be a poorer place if we lose the ability to look at creative individuals and small projects that can actually change the world,” said Michael Wright