Zaveri, Esha

Global Practice on Water, The World Bank
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Environmental economics, Water, Agriculture, Development
Global Practice on Water, The World Bank
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Last updated: March 18, 2024
Esha Zaveri is a Senior Economist with the World Bank’s Water Global Practice with professional interests in water resource management, climate impacts, environmental health, and the use of geospatial data with statistical analysis to study interactions between the environment, and social and economic systems. She has published on these topics in leading scientific journals and has authored flagship reports of the World Bank on water scarcity (Uncharted Waters, 2017), water pollution (Quality Unknown, 2019), and migration (Ebb and Flow, 2021). Prior to joining the World Bank, she was a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University’s Center on Food Security and the Environment where she remains an affiliated scholar. She holds a Ph.D. in Environmental Economics and Demography from Pennsylvania State University.

Publication Search Results

Now showing 1 - 10 of 16
  • Publication
    Is Natural Capital a Complement to Human Capital?: Evidence from 46 Countries
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2023-11-29) Herrera Garcia , Luis Diego; Damania, Richard; Kim, Hyungju; Viotti, Leonardo; Zaveri, Esha; Onder, Stefanie; Pantoja, Chrissie
    The environment has long been the foundation of human flourishing, but its continued degradation is threatening to reverse recent development gains, especially in human health. This paper analyzes the possible complementarity between natural and human capital by linking high-resolution deforestation data with health outcomes for 0.7 million children across 46 countries. Forest loss is often a consequence of economic activities that may confer market and other benefits. At the same time, it can adversely affect the provision of forest ecosystem services and reduce the associated socioeconomic and environmental benefits for rural communities. The net effect is thus ambiguous. The paper focuses on the hydrological services provided by forests and exploits quasi-random variation in deforestation upstream to assess the impacts on waterborne disease outcomes for rural households downstream. The results not only indicate increases in diarrheal disease incidence among children under 5 years old, but also offer new evidence of early-life exposure to deforestation on childhood stunting, a well-known indicator of later-life productivity. A case study for Peru shows similar results for diarrheal disease, but a weaker effect of forest loss on stunting. The paper concludes that maintaining natural capital has the potential to generate meaningful improvements in long-run human capital.
  • Publication
    Nature's Frontiers: Achieving Sustainability, Efficiency, and Prosperity with Natural Capital
    (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2023-06-27) Damania, Richard; Polasky, Stephen; Ruckelshaus, Mary; Russ, Jason; Amann, Markus; Chaplin-Kramer, Rebecca; Gerber, James; Hawthorne, Peter; Heger, Martin Philipp; Mamun, Saleh; Ruta, Giovanni; Schmitt, Rafael; Smith, Jeffrey; Vogl, Adrian; Wagner, Fabian; Zaveri, Esha
    The great expansion of economic activity since the end of World War II has caused an unprecedented rise in living standards, but it has also caused rapid changes in earth systems. Nearly all types of natural capital—the world’s stock of resources and services provided by nature—are in decline. Clean air, abundant and clean water, fertile soils, productive fisheries, dense forests, and healthy oceans are critical for healthy lives and healthy economies. Mounting pressures, however, suggest that the trend of declining natural capital may cast a long shadow into the future. "Nature’s Frontiers: Achieving Sustainability, Efficiency, and Prosperity with Natural Capital" presents a novel approach to address these foundational challenges of sustainability. A methodology combining innovative science, new data sources, and cutting-edge biophysical and economic models builds sustainable resource efficiency frontiers to assess how countries can sustainably use their natural capital more efficiently. The analysis provides recommendations on how countries can better use their natural capital to achieve their economic and environ mental goals. The report indicates that significant efficiency gaps exist in nearly every country. Closing these gaps can address many of the world’s pressing economic and environmental problems—economic productivity, health, food and water security, and climate change. Although the approach outlined in this report will entail demanding policy reforms, the costs of inaction will be far higher.
  • Publication
    The Hidden Wealth of Nations: The Economics of Groundwater in Times of Climate Change
    (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2023-06-23) Rodella, Aude-Sophie; editors; Bertone, François; Zaveri, Esha
    Groundwater is our most important freshwater resource, but the lack of systematic analysis of its economic importance has evaded attention from policymakers and the general public–threatening the resource. "The Hidden Wealth of Nations: The Economics of Groundwater in Times of Climate Change" report offers new data and evidence that advances understanding of the value of groundwater, the costs of mismanagement, and the opportunities to leverage its potential.
  • Publication
    Detox Development: Repurposing Environmentally Harmful Subsidies
    (Washington, DC : World Bank, 2023-06-15) Damania, Richard; Balseca, Esteban; de Fontaubert, Charlotte; Gill, Joshua; Kim, Kichan; Rentschler, Jun; Russ, Jason; Zaveri, Esha
    Clean air, land, and oceans are critical for human health and nutrition and underpin much of the world’s economy. Yet they suffer from degradation, poor management, and overuse due to government subsidies. "Detox Development: Repurposing Environmentally Harmful Subsidies" examines the impact of subsidies on these foundational natural assets. Explicit and implicit subsidies—estimated to exceed US$7 trillion per year—not only promote inefficiencies but also cause much environmental harm. Poor air quality is responsible for approximately 1 in 5 deaths globally. And as the new analyses in this report show, a significant number of these deaths can be attributed to fossil fuel subsidies. Agriculture is the largest user of land worldwide, feeding the world and employing 1 billion people, including 78 percent of the world’s poor. But it is subsidized in ways that promote inefficiency, inequity, and unsustainability. Subsidies are shown to drive the deterioration of water quality and increase water scarcity by incentivizing overextraction. In addition, they are responsible for 14 percent of annual deforestation, incentivizing the production of crops that are cultivated near forests. These subsidies are also implicated in the spread of zoonotic and vector-borne diseases, especially malaria. Finally, oceans support the world’s fisheries and supply about 3 billion people with almost 20 percent of their protein intake from animals. Yet they are in a collective state of crisis, with more than 34 percent of fisheries overfished, exacerbated by open-access regimes and capacity-increasing subsidies. Although the literature on subsidies is large, this report fills significant knowledge gaps using new data and methods. In doing so, it enhances understanding of the scale and impact of subsidies and offers solutions to reform or repurpose them in efficient and equitable ways. The aim is to enhance understanding of the magnitude, consequences, and drivers of policy successes and failures in order to render reforms more achievable.
  • Publication
    Fit for (re)purpose?: A New Look at the Spatial Distribution of Agricultural Subsidies
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2023-04-21) Ebadi, Ebad; Russ, Jason; Zaveri, Esha
    Agricultural subsidies make up a large share of public budgets, exceeding 40 percent of total agricultural production value in some countries. Subsidies are often important components of government strategies to raise agricultural productivity, support agricultural households, and promote food security. They do so by reducing production costs, promoting the use of inputs or modern farming techniques, encouraging the production of certain crops, and raising household incomes. Given the magnitude of these subsidies, their distributional implications and the externalities they impose on the environment are of significant consequence. This paper uses a new spatial analysis to explore the distributional implications of agricultural output subsidies across 16 countries/regions and the distributional and select environmental implications of input subsidies across 23 countries/regions. The findings show that, relative to the spatial distribution of income, both types of subsidy are distributionally mixed. Output subsidies are relatively progressive in 10 countries/regions and regressive in six, while input subsidies are relatively progressive in 11 countries/regions, regressive in nine, and neutral in three. The results also show that input subsidy schemes significantly increase fertilizer use, particularly in richer regions within countries, leading to soil saturation of nitrogen, an indicator of accelerated environmental degradation.
  • Publication
    After Big Droughts Come Big Cities: Does Drought Drive Urbanization?
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2023-04-19) Chlouba, Vladimir; Mukim, Megha; Zaveri, Esha
    Existing research points to a possible link between slow-onset symptoms of climate change and migration. It is also known that rates of urbanization are fastest in some of the world’s poorest countries, which are incidentally also at greater risk of climate-induced migration. These separate findings suggest that slow-onset climate phenomena such as droughts have likely become a key driver of urbanization across much of the developing world. While intuitive, this link has not been convincingly established by extant research. This study examines the climate-urbanization nexus by constructing a novel measure of urban growth that uses remotely sensed information from the World Settlement Footprint dataset. Relying on panel data that cover the entire globe between 1985 and 2014, the paper shows that drought leads to faster urban growth. The results indicate that a hypothetical drought lasting 12 months is associated with a 27 percent increase in the average annual increment of built-up area. The paper leverages novel data from several Sahelian cities to illustrate that much of this growth takes the form of non-infill development that extends outward from previously built-up localities.
  • Publication
    Ebb and Flow, Volume 2: Water in the Shadow of Conflict in the Middle East and North Africa
    (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2021-08-23) Borgomeo, Edoardo; Zaveri, Esha; Russ, Jason; Khan, Amjad; Damania, Richard
    The Middle East and North Africa Region encapsulates many of the issues surrounding water and human mobility. It is the most water-scarce region in the world and is experiencing unprecedented levels of forced displacement. Ebb and Flow: Volume 2. Water in the Shadow of Conflict in the Middle East and North Africa examines the links between water risks (harmful outcomes related to water, from droughts and floods to lack of sanitation), conflict, and forced displacement. It aims to better explain how to address the vulnerabilities of forcibly displaced persons and their host communities, and to identify water policy and investment responses. Contrary to common belief, the report finds that the evidence linking water risks with conflict and forced displacement in the region is not unequivocal. Water risks are more frequently related to cooperation than to conflict at both domestic and international levels. But while conflict is not necessarily a consequence of water risks, the reverse is a real and concerning phenomenon: conflict amplifies water risks. Since 2011, there have been at least 180 instances of intentional targeting of water infrastructure in conflicts in Gaza, Libya, the Syrian Arab Republic, and the Republic of Yemen. Forcibly displaced persons and their host communities face myriad water risks. Access to safe drinking water is a daily struggle for millions of forcibly displaced Iraqis, Libyans, Palestinians, Syrians, Yemenis, and international migrants in the region, heightening public health risks. Tanker trucks often help fill the gap; however, significant issues of water quality, reliability, and affordability remain. Host communities also face localized declines in water availability and quality as well as unplanned burdens on water services following the arrival of forcibly displaced persons. The reality of protracted forced displacement requires a shift from humanitarian support toward a development approach for water security, including structured yet flexible planning to deliver water services and sustain water resources for forcibly displaced persons and their host communities.
  • Publication
    Ebb and Flow, Volume 1: Water, Migration, and Development
    (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2021-08-23) Zaveri, Esha; Russ, Jason; Khan, Amjad; Damania, Richard; Borgomeo, Edoardo
    Migration shapes the lives of those who move and transforms the geographies and economies of their points of departure and destinations alike. The water sector, and the availability of water itself, implicitly and explicitly shape migration flows. Ebb and Flow, Volume 1. Water, Migration, and Development presents new global evidence to advance our understanding of how fluctuations in water availability, as induced by rainfall shocks, influence internal migration, and hence regional development. It finds that cumulative water deficits result in five times as much migration as water excess does. But there are important nuances in why and when these events lead to migration. Where there is extreme poverty and migration is costly, water deficits are more likely to trap people than induce them to migrate. Water shocks can also influence who migrates. Workers leaving regions because of water deficits are often less advantaged than typical migrants and bring with them lower skills, raising important implications for the migrants themselves and receiving regions. Cities are the destination of most internal migrants, but even here, water scarcity can haunt them. Water shortages in urban areas, which lead to so-called day zero events, can significantly slow urban growth and compound the vulnerability of migrants. No single policy can be completely effective at protecting people and their assets from water shocks. Instead, the report puts forth a menu of overlapping and complementary policy options that target both people and places to improve livelihoods and turn water-induced crises into opportunities for growth. A key message is that policies that focus on reducing the impacts of water shocks must be complemented by strategies that broaden opportunities and build the long-term resilience of communities. Doing so will give individuals more agency to determine the best outcome for themselves and to thrive wherever they may choose to locate.
  • Publication
    Salt of the Earth: Quantifying the Impact of Water Salinity on Global Agricultural Productivity
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2020-02) Desbureaux, Sebastien; Russ, Jason; Escurra, Jorge; Zaveri, Esha; Damania, Richard; Rodella, Aude-Sophie
    Salinity in surface waters is on the rise throughout much of the world. Many factors contribute to this change, including increased water extraction, poor irrigation management, and sea-level rise. To date no study has attempted to quantify the impacts on global food production. This paper develops a plausibly causal model to test the sensitivity of global and regional agricultural productivity to changes in water salinity. To do so, it utilizes several local and global data sets on water quality and agricultural productivity and a model that isolates the impact of exogenous changes in water salinity on yields. The analysis trains a machine-learning model to predict salinity globally, to simulate average global food losses over 2000-13. These losses are found to be high, in the range of the equivalent of 124 trillion kilocalories, or enough to feed more than 170 million people every day, each year. Global maps building on these results show that pockets of high losses occur on all continents, but the losses can be expected to be particularly problematic in regions already experiencing malnutrition challenges.
  • Publication
    The Nitrogen Legacy: The Long-Term Effects of Water Pollution on Human Capital
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2020-02) Desbureaux, Sebastien; Zaveri, Esha; Russ, Jason; Ribeiro, Giovanna; Damania, Richard; Rodella, Aude-Sophie
    The fallout of nitrogen pollution is considered one of the largest global externalities facing the world, impacting air, water, soil, and human health. This paper combines data from the Demographic and Health Survey data set across India, Vietnam, and 33 African countries to analyze the causal links between pollution exposure experienced during the very earliest stages of life and later-life health. The results show that pollution exposure experienced in the critical years of development—from birth until age three—is associated with decreased height as an adult, a well-known indicator of overall health and productivity, and is robust to several statistical checks. Because adult height is related to education, labor productivity, and income, this also implies a loss of earning potential. The analysis begins within an assessment in India, where the data are more available, and is then extended to geographic settings including Vietnam and 33 countries in Africa. The results are consistent and show that early-life exposure to nitrogen pollution in water can lower height-for-age scores during childhood in Vietnam and during infancy in Africa. These findings add to the evidence on the enduring consequences of water pollution and identify a critical area for policy intervention.