KARACHI, PAKISTAN - A $100 million World Bank project meant to protect Karachi, Pakistan from flooding was found to have barely been spent, according to a report in Climate Home News.
Karachi is situated on Pakistan’s southern coast and is home to 16 million people. It is the backbone of the Pakistani economy.
The project, called the Solid Waste Emergency and Efficiency Project (Sweep), was meant to clear the city’s many clogged waterways, locally called nullahs, that lead drain water into the sea and improve its debilitated water system. The project was initiated in late 2020 after a particularly bad spell of flooding earlier that year.
But two years on, less than 3 percent of the World Bank’s budget - which is given to the local Sindh government as loans - was spent, according to the report, none of which was used to build new infrastructure. This left Karachi woefully unprepared in 2022 when floods devastated the city.
Roughly $92,000 was spent on furniture, according to the report, while the earmarked amount for equipment and vehicles have yet to be disbursed.
A further $30 million was meant to go towards unspecified “works”, according to official documents cited by Climate Home News, which is not been spent.
Authorities instead used some of the money to bulldoze the homes of people built without the permission of local authorities, rendering them homeless.
"Pakistan needs to do some introspection as to why they were unable to tap into the funds that were available. Was their own house in order to access these funds?" said Fahad Saeed, South Asia and Middle East lead at the policy NGO Climate Analytics as quoted in the report.
The government has insisted that the funds are being used properly, and said that the project is only delayed by a few months.
The World Bank defended the project, according to the report, and said: "Based on the current schedule, we expect the construction of the waste disposal facility and transfer stations to commence in early 2023."
The World Bank has poured millions of dollars into Karachi since 2017, but it has nevertheless experienced routine flooding every year since. Most tellingly, the city was inundated for days on end last year during the devastating floods that left a third of Pakistan underwater.