Crumbling roads, grids cost poor nations billions due to storms: World Bank

Patrick GALEY
Natural disasters cause infrastructure damage that cost developing nations $18 billion a year, the World Bank says (AFP Photo/Jewel SAMAD)

Paris (AFP) - Flooding, storms and other natural hazards, made more likely by climate change, cost poor nations hundreds of billions every year due to crumbling infrastructure, the World Bank said Wednesday.

The global lender said power and water cuts and traffic disruptions caused by inclement weather and worsened by poor management and maintenance of bridges, roads and electricity grids, cost low- and middle-income nations $390 billion (350 billion euros) annually.

Two-thirds of humanity is predicted to reside in cities by 2050, up from 55 percent today.

With much of the plumbing, power, and health infrastructure needed to sustain them yet to be built, investors are increasingly prioritising projects that will prove resilient to future climate shocks.

The World Bank said investment in more robust infrastructure would bag developing nations as much as $4.2 trillion in the long term.

"We are not measuring the pain and suffering that comes out of natural disasters that are destroying people's lives and livelihoods," World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva told AFP.

"We are looking into the price of the solution. What would it take to have infrastructure... built to be better and more resilient.

"Countries will save enormously in future if they act responsibly today," she added.

The World Bank said the loss of power and disruption to transport networks caused by violent weather events alone cost developing nations about $18 billion a year.

The losses are concentrated in Africa and Southeast Asia, where growing city populations and humid weather conditions pose a growing challenge for infrastructure.

In China alone, 64 million people are dependent on waste water treatment plants at risk from earthquakes and landslides, and 200 million depend on treatment plants "that will be exposed to increasing flood risks due to climate change," the bank said.

Businesses in Tanzania lose an average of $668 million each year -- equivalent to 1.8 percent of GDP -- from power and water cuts and transport disruptions.

And in Kampala, Uganda's capital, even moderate flooding can make it impossible for more than a third of the city's 1.5 million people to reach a hospital during an emergency.