Infrastructure plays a crucial role in the drive for achieving development by providing energy, transportation, and water. Going forward, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) estimates that developing countries might have to invest over $700 billion a year in infrastructure in the coming decade—rising to $1 trillion a year by 2030—in order to sustain rapid growth rates. Well-designed infrastructure can have positive impacts on the environment, which also is crucial for development. However, there is a dark side to infrastructural investments: they often lead to environmental degradation. Meeting the Millennium Development Goals depends on the provision of adequate infrastructure, such as providing clean water and sanitation, as well as on reducing adverse environmental impacts, such as reducing the impacts of air pollution on health and agricultural production (e.g., acid rain).
The Evaluation Coordination Group (ECG) commissioned this initial review, The Nexus Between Infrastructure And Environment: From the Evaluation Cooperation Group of the International Financial Institutions, to learn what can be done both to minimize the detrimental impacts of infrastructure on the environment and to enhance infrastructure’s positive contribution to the environment beyond the role of existing safeguards. Findings show that there is considerable scope to reduce the negative environmental impacts of infrastructure, to mitigate the impacts of others, and to actually enhance the environment in many cases. This requires moving beyond the conventional “do no harm” approach at the project level to a more proactive “do good” approach at both project and national levels. The evaluation points to the need of addressing the infrastructure-environment nexus both at the project level relating to selection, design, implementation, and supervision, as well as at the sectoral and national level relating to policies, regulations, and environmental capacity.