Water Pilot Projects in Asia and the Pacific

Article | 12 December 2011

ADB's Facility for Pilot and Demonstration Activity (PDA) has become a source of innovation and inspiration for many countries and communities in Asia and the Pacific to improve the delivery of water services and the management of water resources.

Asia's water sector faces serious challenges. Often, solutions to these challenges come in the form of large-scale, long-term and capital-intensive development projects that involve a great deal of time for planning and implementation. When ADB launched the PDA Facility in 2002, it introduced a quick way of getting small, but adequate, amounts of money to ADB staff, government clients, and development partners to fund innovative small-scale water projects.

A PDA is a small-scale project that directly supports either an ADB project or sector work in one of ADB's developing member countries (DMCs). Specifically, the PDA Facility was designed to test and validate new and/or innovative approaches, strategies, technologies, and methodologies for improved water resources management and water services delivery, on a small scale, with the intention of replicating and scaling up such successful innovative practices across the region.

PDAs are meant to be fast-moving, quick disbursing activities. Each project should cost at most $50,000 and be completed within one year. By offering rapid response, working out local solutions, and focusing on tangible results on the ground, PDAs have become an integral part of the ADB water sector operations.

The new nation of Timor-Leste became the recipient of one of the first PDA grants. The PDA "Integrated Water Resources Management and Environmental Impact Study" helped assess Timor-Leste's capacity for integrated water resources management (IWRM), as the country reconstructs its war-torn water supply and sanitation system. The PDA later on provided valuable strategic inputs for a bigger ADB project on Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM).

In 2004, a PDA in Thailand gathered Bang Pakong river basin stakeholders to the discussion table to resolve the conflicting uses of the river's resources. In 2009, building upon the PDA results, the stakeholders have begun formulating a detailed policy, plan, and manual for effective water allocation. In Nepal, a PDA helped evaluate in 2009 the potential for and merit of building multifunctional water users associations for Nepal's irrigation systems. Results of this pilot project provided inputs to ADB's Community Managed Irrigated Agriculture Sector Project in Nepal that aims to enhance agricultural productivity and sustainability of farmer-managed irrigation systems.

Pilot projects in full force

With more than 60 projects implemented since 2002, the PDA Facility has become a powerful force that drives water developments in many urban, rural, and river basin communities across the Asia and Pacific region.

The PDA Facility has helped ADB's water operations in various ways, such as:

  • trying out design options during project preparation
  • finding solution to a problem and exploring such solution during fact-finding missions
  • improving quality of engagement with government counterparts and with stakeholders in the field, including project beneficiaries
  • triggering the development of new investments

Furthermore, it has helped in advancing wider sector work, such as in pushing reform measures and in improving institutional arrangements. The PDA Facility has been refined by lessons learned during its execution. Its effectiveness has also been validated, as well as improved upon, by an internal review.

What has kept the facility relevant and flexible is that the projects are spread out across five themes. These themes serve as guideposts to ensure that the PDA Facility does not focus too narrowly on a particular thematic area in the sector or type of project, but is continuously reaching to test and demonstrate the value of new ideas in as many aspects of water operations as possible. The PDA themes are:

  • policy, legislation, and regulatory reforms
  • institutional arrangements
  • public awareness and water education
  • appropriate technology
  • participation, inclusive approaches, and multi-stakeholder representation

Indeed, smart, sustainable water solutions can come in small packages.

Pooling the money

PDAs were introduced as a program offered by the Cooperation Fund for the Water Sector through a series of regional technical assistance on "Promoting Effective Water Management Policies and Practices". The Fund, a multi-donor umbrella facility that financed a coherent program of activities designed to add value and increase synergy in ADB'S water sector operations, financed a total of 39 PDAs between 2002 and 2008. Donors to the Fund included The Netherlands and Norway.

In 2009, the Water Financing Partnership Facility (WFPF) continued the PDA program. The WFPF mobilizes co-financing and investments from development partners to support ADB's Water Financing Program that aims to deliver substantial water investments, reforms, and capacity development. With contributions from Australia, Austria, Norway, Spain, and The Netherlands, the WFPF has since funded another 21 PDAs, now in varying stages of implementation.

Presently, PDAs provide support for reforms and developments in the Water Financing Program's three investment areas:

  • Rural Water, covering rural water supply and sanitation, and irrigation and drainage
  • Urban Water, covering urban water supply, sanitation, and wastewater management
  • Basin Water, covering water resources development and management, flood management, and watershed and wetlands protection, including hydropower.