The World Bank has approved US$15 million in support to the government of Kiribati to significantly strengthen the water supply for the island of South Tarawa.
Approved on December 13, the South Tarawa Water Supply Project will help provide people on South Tarawa, Kiribati’s most populated island, with better access to a safe, reliable, and climate-resilient water supply.
Kiribati is one of the most remote, geographically dispersed nations on earth, with an estimated population of just over 100,000 spread over 21 islands across three million square kilometers of ocean. This geography creates significant human development and growth challenges, including access to safe, reliable water and sanitation.
Kiribati’s capital, Tarawa has fragile water resources due to its small size, lack of capacity for storage and small land area. Limited freshwater resources are now combining with climate variability and overcrowding to further add to this water scarcity. This combination of overcrowding and inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene is also closely linked to waterborne diseases such as diarrhea and dysentery.
The South Tarawa Water Supply Project aims to address these issues by expanding and modernizing South Tarawa’s water supply network to deliver piped water to homes. It will also support the construction of seawater desalination systems that will meet water demands and increase drought resilience up to the year 2040.
The project will see the construction of a new solar power plant, along with energy storage and transmission infrastructure to help offset the electricity requirements of the new water system. In addition, the project will support improvements to the operations and capacity of the Kiribati Public Utilities Board.
The project will also support water, sanitation and hygiene awareness activities with a five-year ‘WASH Awareness Program’, together with the construction of sanitation systems throughout South Tarawa as well as the provision of training to community organizations that manage sanitation facilities. This sanitation work is a pilot that is designed to be scaled up in the future.
“Water scarcity, combined with the impacts of climate change, threaten the livelihoods, wellbeing and the very existence of communities in South Tarawa,” said Michel Kerf, World Bank Country Director for Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands. “We are proud to be able to assist the government of Kiribati to tackle these critical water supply issues in a sustainable way, ensuring that communities’ have access to safer, more reliable water for years to come.”
The project is co-financed through US$41.63 million from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Green Climate Fund, with US$1.49 million in contributions from the government of Kiribati for a total project cost of US$58.12 million.
“The South Tarawa Water Supply Project will help to make people in South Tarawa healthier and more resilient to droughts and climate change while also adding to their economic and social development. I am happy that the World Bank board has approved the project and my Ministry remains committed to successful implementation of the project in partnership with all stakeholders and the community,” said Hon. Ruateki Tekaiara, Minister of Infrastructure & Sustainable Energy.
The project, which is expected to be completed in 2027, will be managed and implemented through Kiribati’s Ministry of Infrastructure and Sustainable Energy.