Addressing environmental problems is a concern for several international development organizations. The definition of “environmental” problems has been one of the obstacles to proper handling of the problem and allocating appropriate funding. Although this is true to a large extent, it is valid to argue that international aid is also bound by geopolitical forces and interest of the donating agency. Providing funding to address environmental problems is usually part of a larger cooperation agreement between governments or international agencies and therefore is derived by the interest and the agenda of the donor agency.
The definition is indeed a problem and this wide range (broad Vs narrow) of understanding plays a role in identifying and measuring the success of the program.
From previous experience, the following are some examples:
(1) Decision by central government is taken far from the location context and with absence of good knowledge of the context.
— The central government in Egypt developed a prototype for housing for the poor and named it (Taweteen). Spreading it out to remote areas of the country makes it extremely irrelevant and not suitable for the local tribes in the southern border near Sudan. This is because the lack of suitable design and absent of knowledge of the local conditions in such a remote area.
(2) Broad definitions is a problem, especially that most f the environmental and health issues are related to lack of infrastructures (i.e. water & sanitation).
— The environmental component of upgrading project end up of being a construction project instead of looking at the real environmental issues and resolve it. Again the absence of (appropriate technology) sometimes lead environmental improvement programs to be limited to installing pipes and provide urban utilities without proper needs assessment.
(3) Stand alone initiatives Vs Main stream: This paper argues that main stream is more important. Although this seem to be valid to a large extent. It is important not to ignore specific conditions where stand alone initiatives can also be equally important. Especially in initiatives that are newly introduced and can not be part of the original development framework. A good example is the initiatives of developing green stars for tourism establishments that consider all sustainability elements. It would not be a successful one if addressed as a continuation of the existing rating system.
(4) Pressure from Northern environmentalist.
— Either it is a blind copy of the developed world or a post colonial influence or looking forward to implementing good environmental practices from the North, the gap remains wide between the targeted and the achievable practices. A good step forward to transfer the good practices within the same region before looking forward to importing what might not work well from the North.