TEPIC, Mexico, April 10 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) -
Melting glaciers, intense storms and other climate-related
shocks are expected to ramp up pressure on Latin America’s
infrastructure, which needs to be stronger to stand the test,
the World Bank said.
Better infrastructure could also help reduce inequality,
lift people out of poverty and promote development, it said in a
Reliance on hydropower makes the region's clean energy
supplies vulnerable, while drought could menace water-stressed
cities, it added.
“It’s becoming increasingly visible that it’s necessary to
make infrastructure more resilient,” said report co-author
Marianne Fay, chief economist with the World Bank’s sustainable
“We need to figure out what future you have to prepare for,"
she told journalists. "We also suggest to take approaches that
have no regrets - that make sense whatever happens."
Latin America and the Caribbean spent 2.8 percent of gross
domestic product last year on infrastructure, compared with
around 4 to 8 percent in other regions, the report said.
The challenge is how to make that investment more efficient
and better targeted in the region that often has poor or
non-existent services outside major cities, said the bank.
To limit disruptions, transport, water and sewage systems
must be bolstered to withstand growing pressure from climate
change, the report said.
Electricity demand will likely rise due to increased heat
waves, while extreme weather patterns will necessitate
flood-prevention measures, it added.
A mix of engineered infrastructure, ecosystem services and
mapping of risks and vulnerabilities could help combat problems,
Fay highlighted Latin America’s poor sanitation and high
dependency on solid cooking fuels as major public health
challenges in the middle-income region, where countries face
tight budget constraints.
Water-supply coverage is relatively high, but its quality is
inadequate and less than 30 percent of wastewater is treated.
More than 20 million people, mainly in rural areas, still lack
access to improved drinking water, noted the report.
Overall electricity access is high, it said, but 22 million
do not have power - mainly in Haiti, Peru and Guatemala.
Meanwhile, 87 million have no access to non-solid fuels, with
Mexico and Brazil among those most affected.
“Low quality of life, severe health problems, poor education
and medical care, and limited opportunities for raising incomes
and living standards are associated with a lack of electricity
and non-solid fuels,” said the report.
The “last mile” challenge to get water and electricity to
the region’s poorest is compounded by their remoteness, and
demands innovative technology, delivery and funding, it said.
Transport is expensive and often unsafe, with cities
congested and some rural areas isolated, said the report, noting
the density of paved roads is similar to that in Africa.
Costly retrofitting may be the only way to improve sprawling
slums in megacities, but medium-sized cities still have the
chance to incorporate low-cost housing into their urban design,
Governments should address the region's service gaps, and
focus on “spending better on the right thing”, she added.
(Reporting by Sophie Hares; editing by Megan Rowling. Please
credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of
Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, climate change,
resilience, women's rights, trafficking and property rights.