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Prioritizing Climate Resilient Transport Investments in a Data-Scarce Environment - A Practitioners’ Guide

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Executive Summary

The planning and analysis of infrastructure investments is complex as it is both strategic and long-term in nature, involves large capital expenditures, and affects multiple stakeholders. The prioritization of investments in transport infrastructure investments, requires the explicit consideration of multiple and often conflicting and incommensurate perspectives and criteria. Compounding the challenges of prioritizing transport infrastructure investments is the present and future impact of climate. As a result, innovative and participatory tools are required to identify and prioritize key transport infrastructure investments that efficiently utilize available resources and engage multiple stakeholders with the goal of developing climate resilience.

Belize is exposed to a high level of risk from meteorological hazards, which have significant negative impacts to economic and social development gains as well as to its infrastructure. As a result, the Government of Belize identified climate resilience as one of the key policy priorities in its national development agenda and approached the World Bank for support to develop a program that addresses the country’s vulnerability to natural disasters and the impacts of climate change. Given the complexity associated with increasing the road network resilience and in the context of extensive financial needs and limited availability of funds, the Government wished to identify areas of the road network that combine highest risk with highest socioeconomic criticality to efficiently direct resources toward the highest climate resilience enhancing impact. In response to this request, the World Bank worked with the Government to carry out an assessment and prioritization process that resulted in identification of investments aimed at increasing the country’s resilience to the impacts of natural hazards by improving key road segments in the road network.

The prioritization process and lessons learned from it are presented and discussed in this Practitioners’ Guide, which aims to provide guidance for the prioritization of climate resilient investments in road infrastructure by presenting a general methodology, a conceptual framework, and a case study of the process that was conducted in Belize. It specifically addresses environments where data is scarce, but there exists institutional memory that can be harnessed. It makes use of existing data, draws on expert knowledge, and actively engages with key stakeholders, to identify and prioritize key national investments using a participatory and data-informed process.

The conceptual framework consists of six modules presented sequentially in practice; however, their implementation may be both in parallel and iterative: (a) Definition of objectives and scope of the prioritization process

(b) Understanding of the governance context and establishing the institutional arrangements for the process

(c) Collation of data, focusing on identifying and bringing together existing data, and collection of data, focusing on the creation of new data to fill the data gaps

(d) Evaluation of criticality

(e) Assessment of risk/exposure from climate-related hazards

(f) Informed decision making

In each module, key concepts are presented followed by a description of the application in the Belize context. The process in Belize involved determining (a) socioeconomic importance of road sections and (b) flood susceptibility of the primary and secondary road network. Road stretches critical for access to public services such as hospitals and schools, movement of economic products and services, and use in evacuation routes as well as those that provide access to the socially vulnerable were assessed through the participatory Multi-Criteria Evaluation (MCE) process. Representatives from over 35 ministries, municipalities, private sector organizations, civil society, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and academic institutions determined the most important criteria for assessing the critical road stretches. Once these were established, the participants developed indicators to evaluate the criteria and scored each indicator, which enabled quantitative analysis of the road network. Flood susceptibility was analyzed using a combined approach of field inspections and collection of information on past events. Incorporating the outputs from these processes, a cutting-edge geospatial model was then developed based on network analysis.

Through this process, four key areas were identified that were the most critical and were highly susceptible to flooding:

(a) Greater Belize City area. Considered critical because of its importance for access of relief services to the communities and as an essential part of the evacuation network. Most road stretches are especially susceptible to flooding, ranking in the highest flood susceptibility range.

(b) West of Belmopan. Considered critical because it provides connectivity between production sites and raw material extraction areas and the (air) ports and border crossings, access of relief services, and access to socially vulnerable populations. Most road stretches were considered to be in the medium to high flood susceptibility range.

(c) Northern area around Corozal. Considered critical because several routes are used extensively as essential parts of the evacuation network and in providing access to socially vulnerable populations. In addition, the area is important for the connectivity between production sites and raw material extraction areas and the (air)ports and border crossings. Some road stretches were ranked in the high flood susceptibility range.

(d) Southern area around Independence. Considered critical because the dependency on these roads is very high. The majority of roads in this area, especially the highway, fall into the high flood susceptibility range.

The result was adopted by the Government as a strategic plan and used to coordinate investments that were implemented with various donors, including the World Bank. This process was successful in Belize because the ministry responsible for national development planning provided strong leadership throughout the process. This is essential if the results of prioritization processes are to be integrated into national processes.