Hubert Jenny: Making the Most of ADB's Water Pilot and Demonstration Activities Facility

Engineer Hubert Jenny has been regularly availing ADB's Facility for Water Pilot and Demonstration Activities, bringing innovations in water supply and sanitation to communities in Southeast Asia for pilot testing.

You have supervised several water pilot and demonstration activities (PDAs). Have there been efforts or initiatives to replicate or scale-up these pilot projects? Any updates on them?

Yes. For one, the PDA on "Developing Appropriate Sanitation Solutions for Peri-Urban Areas" in Kieu Ky commune in Hanoi, Viet Nam is now considered a model pilot project. The project provides a solid example of decentralized off-site sanitation solutions for peri-urban areas and small towns. Many neighboring communities have heard of the PDA's success and have set out to replicate the project. Two ADB infrastructure projects in Viet Nam, the Hue Water Supply project, through an upcoming grant investment component and the Central Region Rural Water Supply and Sanitation project, are benefitting from the PDA's outcomes.

Currently, an after-care project is refining the management, operation and maintenance (O&M) system, and financing mechanisms already set up by the PDA. The PDA also demonstrated a good collaboration and cooperation model of between the Vietnamese counterpart in the local governments (Ha Noi Municipality and Kieu Ky District), the decentralized cooperation from France (Paris Region) financing the water supply component, and two nongovernment organizations (NGOs), Borda from Germany and East from France.

For another, the PDA on "Developing and Demonstrating a Mechanism for Sustainable Supply of Purified Water in Remote Communities," is also now a model for safe water supply provision in far-flung areas. The pilot project is providing strategic inputs into ADB's Water Sector Investment Program for Viet Nam, a $1 billion multi-tranche financing facility that aims to help water supply companies to improve their performance and provide long-term support for institutional reform in Viet Nam's water sector until 2020. The PDA also supports the implementation of Water Safety Plans by the water supply companies requesting financing into the Water Sector Investment Program.

I think that you will be happy to know that we have just finished a proposal for a new PDA in Thailand to re-engage Thailand in the water sector. The PDA Advisory Panel has already approved it and we are now in the process of seeking government concurrence.

What is this new project about?

The new PDA is an 'Assessment of Riverbed Clogging at Potential Riverbank Filtration in Thailand for Securing Safe, Low-Cost Potable Supplies.' The aim is to assess the effect of riverbed clogging on the infiltration rates at locations of potential riverbank filtration systems used for drinking water supply, with a view to assessing the anticipated operational performance at the site and as a tool to assess the feasibility of riverbank filtration in the future for safe water supply.

Riverbank filtration is a process during which surface water is subjected to subsurface flow prior to extraction from vertical or horizontal wells. It is a well-proven treatment step, which at numerous sites is part of a multi-barrier approach to drinking water supply. In Thailand, however, riverbank filtration has not formally been used nor considered for water treatment, but positive experiences from other developed and developing countries indicate it has the potential to offer a sustainable, low-cost water treatment technology.

The project will use a portable experimental apparatus, which can be easily transported to selected sites in Northern Thailand and coupled with existing water supply facilities to use raw river water and natural riverbed sediment to test the rate and extent of clogging at specific sites under simulated natural conditions. The project team is comprised of members from three key partner organizations: the International Water Management Institute, Khon Kaen University, and the University of Applied Sciences Dresden.

A PDA is limited to $50,000 financial resources, but involves practically the same amount of work as a large-scale development project. What motivates you to use the PDA Facility?

The PDA Facility provides the opportunity to test or validate not only the technical, but also the social, financial, and institutional aspects of a project before designing it on a larger scale in project preparation technical assistance. It gives room for innovative ideas to be tested and proven. Lessons learned from these pilot projects often guide scaling up or replication initiatives.

Most innovative large-scale development projects are costly and have a higher degree of risk. One has to be more conservative and prudent in making decisions to avoid larger errors and more costly mistakes. The PDA Facility provides some degree of assurance of the future success of such larger projects for a minimal transaction cost.

What experiences or lessons have you gained from PDAs that you would not otherwise get from large-scale infrastructure projects?

First, PDAs bring innovations to the fore—the latest technology, the best institutional and financial practices, the most powerful ways to raise awareness, and the most effective approach to involve communities and other stakeholders.

Second, PDAs afford the opportunity to collaborate with university or research organizations and establish partnerships with non-government organizations. The objective of the PDA is not to rubber stamp commercial applications of technologies, but to facilitate the entry of innovative technologies and methodologies into a country. As such, we would request private companies to link with NGOs and universities, in order to assess the impact and acceptance of the new technologies and processes on the local conditions, rather than only promote the technology.

Third, the PDAs offer personal knowledge and on-the-ground experience that large projects may not provide. As a development worker and part of the Viet Nam Water Team1, we feel more fulfilled working on PDAs. I see quicker results and they bring me closer to the people and the communities that benefit from the projects.

Do you see the PDA Facility of continuing use to future work in the water sector?

Yes, very much. ADB's Water Operational Plan 2011-2020 recommends revisiting ADB's approaches to designing water projects and ensuring continued support for innovation to promote cross-cutting work with the agriculture, natural resources, and energy sectors within the water-food-energy nexus and the context of water footprint.

I am sure PDAs will figure prominently in future water sector work, especially in these times of uncertainty. With greater climate variability, it is imperative to test new and innovative ideas to fully harness their potential for replication and scaling up. The Viet Nam Water Team targets about 3 PDAs in 2012, especially to test innovative technologies for peri-urban environment.

About the Champion

Engineer Hubert Jenny is a Principal Urban Development Specialist at ADB's Southeast Asia Department. He graduated from France in Environmental Engineering with post-graduate qualifications in water pollution control. He worked in the private sector for nearly 20 years, mostly in Asia on public private partnerships in water and sanitation, prior to joining the World Bank in 2002 on the China Urban Program. In 2005, he joined ADB, first working on developments in the Greater Mekong Subregion and then broadening the scope of his work in the Southeast Asia Department. He was posted to ADB's Resident Mission in Viet Nam in 2008, in charge of the urban and water program for Viet Nam and Thailand. Hubert has been a member of ADB's Water Community of Practice since 2005.

In June 2007, Hubert's proposal on an ADB Water Pilot and Demonstration Activity (PDA) in Viet Nam was approved. ADB's PDA Facility provides $50,000 to implement short-term pilot projects designed to test new and innovative approaches, methodologies, and strategies for improved water resources management and water services delivery, as well as sector policy development and sector reform. Hubert's proposal for Developing Appropriate Sanitation Solutions for Peri-Urban Areas identified and selected appropriate domestic and industrial wastewater collection and treatment system and implemented a pilot wastewater treatment plant project in a commune in the outskirts of Ha Noi. Completed February 2009, the project results now serve as a model for other similar sanitation projects.

Since then, Hubert has supervised three more PDAs:

Hubert has also developed a proposal for a new PDA on "Assessment of Riverbed Clogging at Potential Riverbank Filtration in Thailand for Securing Safe, Low-Cost Potable Supplies." The proposal is already approved and now awaiting government concurrence.

 

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