Infrastructure and sustainability?Sustainable development is critical to the future of humanity. We need to identify and ‘transition’ to paths of development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.


However, it is critical that in taking this intergenerational perspective, the needs of the poor today are still given the highest priority. There is no trade off between environment and development - sustainable development and the eradication of poverty are fundamentally related and mutually reinforcing. As World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg clearly stated, poverty eradication is both an overarching objective and essential requirement of sustainable development.

Infrastructure provision is at the heart of the sustainable development discourse. Infrastructure services – water, sanitation, energy, transport and telecommunications – will be fundamental to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Furthermore, investments now to address the enormous deficiencies of these services in many developing countries represents an enormous opportunity to support the creation of a sustainable built environment that enables individuals and communities to reach their full potential.

Realising this opportunity requires a detailed appreciation of what makes infrastructure services both sustainable and pro-poor in the local context. Infrastructure should:

  • Provide access for the poor to affordable services that meet their basic human needs, reduce their vulnerability to natural disasters and allow them to participate in economic activity;
  • Support substantive freedoms for individuals and communities to participate in decision making that affects their wellbeing and livelihoods;
  • Minimise the consumption of natural resources and the impact on biodiversity and natural systems;
  • Enhance employment generation in construction, operation and maintenance;
  • Be economically & operationally viable in the long term; and
  • Be designed and operated through holistic consideration of social, environmental and economic costs and benefits.


Despite the apparent complexity, EAP argues that in many dimensions poverty and sustainability requirements represent a complementary agenda in infrastructure provision.

Central to achieving this complementary agenda is the quality of the institutional structures and process that govern the planning, design, delivery and operation of infrastructure services. Historically, it has often been the absence or weakness of appropriate institutions which have meant infrastructure developments have not benefited the poor or have resulted in unacceptable impacts on the environment.

EAP’s Programme

Sustainability is core consideration in all aspects of EAP’s programme. One of our major initiatives is the ASPIRE tool which provides a tool for the integrated appraisal of sustainability and poverty reduction performance of infrastructure projects. Institutional sustainability is one of the four key dimensions of the ASPIRE appraisal framework.

Date Published: 12 December 2013
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