The World Bank has expressed its willingness to collaborate with Azerbaijan’s newly-established Water Reserves Agency, according to Winston Yu, Water Practice Manager for the Europe and Central Asia Region at the World Bank. In an exclusive interview with Trend, Yu commended the Azerbaijani government for focusing its attention on the crucial issue of water management. He stated that it presents a significant opportunity for the government to regulate water resources more effectively and provide better services to the people, including households, citizens in Baku and other cities, and farmers who rely on irrigation services.
The Azerbaijan Water Reserves Agency was established in March 2023 by President Ilham Aliyev’s order to enhance water resources management. It was formed based on the Emergency Ministry’s State Water Reserves Agency and has taken over the assets of national water and sanitation operator Azersu and Azerbaijan Melioration and Water Management joint-stock companies. Yu believes it remains to be seen how the new agency will evolve and take on new responsibilities and roles.
Yu emphasized that the challenges in Azerbaijan are similar to those faced by other countries worldwide, including Vietnam, countries in Africa and South Asia, and even the United States. He stated that the World Bank, as a global institution with extensive experience in the water sector, is well-equipped to share its knowledge and support the Azerbaijani government. Yu suggested that the World Bank could provide guidelines and assistance in developing policies and ensuring the financial sustainability of the new agency.
The World Bank is currently conducting ongoing technical assistance activities in Azerbaijan, including analytical studies to assess priorities. These studies aim to help the government determine the financial sustainability of the agency, including budgeting, subsidies, and tariffs. The World Bank also plans to develop tools for benchmarking irrigation performance using satellite technologies and modeling tools. Yu highlighted the importance of improving efficiency and reducing losses in water networks, as well as considering innovative solutions such as wastewater reuse.
Regarding institutional reforms in the water sector, Yu stressed the need for long-term investment and political commitment. He emphasized that it is essential to invest in people and institutions, rather than solely focusing on infrastructure. Yu stated that financial sustainability is crucial, especially in the face of limited public finances and increasing service costs. He suggested adopting performance-based budgeting and separating services from regulation to ensure proper incentives and effective governance.
Yu praised the Azerbaijani government for establishing the Water Reserves Agency, describing it as an encouraging first step. He emphasized the importance of learning from both successful and unsuccessful experiences in other countries and expressed the World Bank’s readiness to support Azerbaijan in its water sector development. Yu concluded by expressing gratitude to the new agency and technical personnel from Azersu and the Amelioration Company for their collaboration and thanked the European Union for providing technical assistance.
The formation of the Azerbaijan Water Reserves Agency marks a significant milestone in the country’s efforts to improve water management. With the support of the World Bank, Azerbaijan aims to enhance the regulation and provision of water services to its citizens, including households, businesses, and farmers. The challenges faced by Azerbaijan in water management are not unique and can be addressed by learning from global experiences and implementing sustainable practices. The government’s commitment to long-term investment and institutional reforms will be crucial in ensuring the success of the new agency. As Azerbaijan moves forward in this journey, the World Bank stands ready to provide guidance and support, sharing its knowledge and experiences to help achieve a sustainable and efficient water sector for the country.
More detail via International News Agency Trend here… ( Image via International News Agency Trend )