For many countries in the global south the World Bank is a key funder of development. A subset of the activities it funds have the potential to cause harm to biodiversity. Currently, however, little is known about the spatial coincidence of Bank-funded projects and important areas for biodiversity. Using a dataset of World Bank projects funded between 1995 and 2014, we examine the relationship between potentially harmful project activities and the ranges of globally threatened birds, mammals, and amphibians, Key Biodiversity Areas, protected areas, and biodiversity hotspots. We find that 5 by 5 km cells containing a project activity are more likely to contain a Key Biodiversity Area, or a biodiversity hotspot, and have on average greater richness of globally threatened species, than those without. This relationship was statistically significant even after considering human population and country-level socio-economic effects except in the case of Key Biodiversity Areas. We also found limited evidence that activities are systematically placed within countries to avoid the ranges of threatened species or Key Biodiversity Areas. By contrast, we found a negative relationship between project activities and protected areas globally and within most countries, which may be evidence that potentially harmful activities are placed to avoid protected areas. Our findings raise questions about whether the Banks environmental safeguards have adequately translated into avoidance of highly diverse areas. Given the size of the World Bank’s lending portfolio and its role in setting industry best practice our results are concerning for conservation efforts.
Citation & Link to journal full text
Morley, J., Buchanan, G., Mitchard, E. T. A., & Keane, A. (2021). Potentially harmful World Bank projects are proximate to areas of biodiversity conservation importance. Global Environmental Change: Human and Policy Dimensions, 70, 102364.