Sustainable Development Practice Group, The World Bank
Author Name Variants
Fields of Specialization
Development Economics, Environmental Economics, Natural Resource Economics, Agricultural Economics, Water Economics, Game Theory
Externally Hosted Work
Last updated August 30, 2023
Richard Damania is the Chief Economist of the Sustainable Development Practice Group. He has held several positions in the World Bank including as Senior Economic Advisor in the Water Practice, Lead Economist in the Africa Region’s Sustainable Development Department, in the South Asia and Latin America and Caribbean Regions of the World Bank. His work has spanned across multiple sectors and has helped the World Bank become an acknowledged thought-leader on matters relating to environment, water and the economy. Prior to joining the World Bank he held positions in academia and has published extensively with over 100 papers in scientific journals.
Publication Search Results
Now showing 1 - 10 of 16
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2014-05) Damania, Richard ; Scandizzo, Pasquale Lucio ; Glauber, A.JThis paper presents a somewhat novel approach to explore the economic contribution of ecosystems. It develops linked models to capture connections between resource stocks and flows and the resulting microeconomic and macroeconomic impacts. A bioeconomic model is developed that is imbedded into a computable general equilibrium (CGE) model. Incorporating imperfect regulation, the bioeconomic model characterizes optimal policies, while the CGE model explores the economy-wide consequences of possible changes to the ecosystem. The model is parameterized and calibrated to the case of the Serengeti ecosystem which is perhaps the most intensively researched biome with a relative abundance of data. This ecosystem is also undergoing rapid change from a host of factors related to developments within and around the protected area system. The analysis identifies the contribution of the ecosystem to the economy and finds that changes in tourism and bushmeat hunting have surprisingly diffuse economy-wide impacts, that are especially large in the rural sector. To guard against overstatement, ecosystem impacts are under-stated relative to other effects. The results suggest that linkages to the natural resource sector (backward and forward multipliers) are important and neglecting these may lead to biased estimates.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2015-05) Damania, Richard ; Wheeler, DavidRoad construction has often been viewed as the precursor to deforestation, especially in tropical forests. Traditional responses to such threats have been reactive, with attempts to mitigate impacts through physical measures, or the establishment of protected areas. These approaches often have not been entirely successful, especially in areas where economic potential is significant. This paper seeks to mitigate such conflicts by proposing a proactive approach to development planning and environmental policy. It develops a high-resolution spatial model of road improvement impacts that includes ecological risks and the economics of forest clearing. The approach is implemented by estimating the potential impact of road upgrading on forest clearing and biodiversity in eight Congo Basin countries. The paper demonstrates how the detailed analysis can identify areas of high ecological priority as well as areas at high risk of forest loss. The paper contributes to several aspects of the literature. First, it provides the most recent and reliable estimates of the drivers of deforestation in the Congo Basin, with the latest high-resolution satellite data on forest cover changes. Second, it presents novel estimates of biodiversity threats by creating an index that combines and synthesizes several measures of biodiversity loss and impacts. It then develops an empirical framework for estimating the ecological impacts of road improvement. Finally, the paper illustrates how the empirical framework can be used to preempt impacts and avoid potential ecological damage.
Economic Boom or Ecologic Doom?: Using Spatial Analysis to Reconcile Road Development with Forest Conservation(Washington, DC: World Bank, 2016-05-20) Barra, Alvaro Federico ; Burnouf, Mathilde ; Damania, Richard ; Russ, JasonThe natural endowment of the Democrat Republic of Congo, in the form of land, minerals, and forests, is unparalleled. The right mix of policies has the potential to unleash incentives that could transform the economy. However, transport infrastructure in the DRC is amongst the sparsest and most dilapidated in the world, and this lack of infrastructure is likely a significant constraint to growth. This work considerably advances the information that is available to infrastructure planners, and provides methodologies that could be used to make more informed decisions to identify trade-offs between economic growth and environmental endangerment. The approach draws from the state-of the art across a variety of disciplines – spatial (GIS) analysis, spatial econometrics, economic theory, and conservation biology – to create an approach that can guide the location and level of investments by estimating benefits and environmental costs at a highly disaggregated spatial scale. The analysis proceeds in four related phases that combine economic assessments with geospatial analysis. First transport costs are estimated using GIS techniques. A variety of econometric procedures are then used to determine the economic effects of changing transport costs. Second, highly disaggregated spatial data is used to estimate the effects of roads on forest cover, and the resulting biodiversity that would be at risk from local deforestation. Next the two spatial estimates are combined to simulate the effects of different policies. Finally this provides a series of maps that identify regions where there are large trade-offs between economic and ecological goals. Overall the results suggests that the siting of infrastructure needs to consider impacts at the very outset of the planning process. This report presents both new data and new techniques that can be used to identify areas of opportunity, risk, and potential for REDD+ financing. Such upstream planning has been rendered both feasible and cost effective with the availability of geo-referenced information on forest cover and economic data. This report provides the data and easily comprehensible maps for such an exercise.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2020-02) Russ, Jason ; Zaveri, Esha ; Damania, Richard ; Desbureaux, Sebastien ; Escurra, Jorge ; Rodella, Aude-SophieSalinity 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(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2021-07) Taheripour, Farzad ; Chepeliev, Maksym ; Damania, Richard ; Farole, Thomas ; Lozano Gracia, Nancy ; Russ, Jason DanielCan countries reorient their productive capacity to become more environmentally friendly and inclusive? To investigate this question, this paper uses a standard input-output modeling framework and data from 141 countries and regions to construct a new global data set of employment, value-added, greenhouse gas emissions (disaggregated into carbon dioxide and non-carbon dioxide elements), and air pollution (including nine categories of air pollutants such as fine particulate matter multipliers from supply-side investments. The analysis finds that many of the traditional sectors in agriculture and industry have large employment multipliers, but also generate male dominant, lower skill employment, and tend to have higher emissions multipliers. It is in economies dominated by these sectors that trade-offs to a “greener” transition will emerge most sharply. However, the analysis finds substantial heterogeneity in outcomes, so even in these economies, there exist other sectors with high employment multipliers and low emissions, including sectors that are more conducive to female employment. In addition, the analysis finds a high correlation between industries that generate greenhouse gas emissions, which cause long-term climate impacts, and those that generate air pollution, which have immediate harmful impacts on human health, suggesting that policies could be designed to confer longer climate benefits simultaneously with immediate health improvements. The results confirm some of the findings from recent research and shed new light on opportunities for greening economies.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2022-01-17) Balseca, Esteban ; Cuesta, Jose Antonio ; Damania, Richard ; Feng, Shenghui ; Moon, Jisung ; Rentschler, Jun ; Russ, Jason ; Triyana, Margaret ; Balseca, EstebanThe world has witnessed unparalleled economic progress in the last three decades. But success is not preordained, and several headwinds threaten this hard fought progress. Inequality is leaving many people and subgroups behind and excluding them from enjoying the benefits of this great economic expansion. More recently, the world has awakened to the reality of a new type of risk. The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) struck at a time when the world was healthier and wealthier than ever before. There is little disagreement over the need to enable a recovery that is fairer, safer, and more sustainable. This report describes how these ambitious objectives can be achieved by providing evidence based tools and information to guide countries to spend better and improve policies. It is in this context that this document presents policy guidance to identify and diagnose key development challenges and develop solutions to help countries build better.
Publication(Washington, DC : World Bank, 2023-06-15) Damania, Richard ; Balseca, Esteban ; de Fontaubert, Charlotte ; Gill, Joshua ; Kim, Kichan ; Rentschler, Jun ; Russ, Jason ; Zaveri, EshaClean 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.
Transport, Economic Growth, and Deforestation in the Democratic Republic of Congo: A Spatial Analysis(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2016-01-13) Damania, Richard ; Barra, Alvaro Federico ; Burnouf, Mathilde ; Russ, Jason DanielThe purpose of this study is to demonstrate several techniques which can be used to evaluate pathways to sustainable growth in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) via infrastructure improvement. Decades of conflict and neglect have left the DRC’s transport infrastructure amongst the sparsest and most dilapidated in the world.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2019-12-10) Desbureaux, Sebastien ; Damania, Richard ; Rodella, Aude-Sophie ; Russ, Jason ; Zaveri, EshaDeclining water quality can impact the economy in various ways. Impacts can be found in the health sector, where labor productivity can be affected, in agriculture, where the quality and quantity of food produced can be reduced, and in tourism, real estate, aquaculture/fisheries and other sectors which rely on environmental quality and ecosystem services. Despite these well-known impacts, finding economy-wide affects of water quality on economic activity can be elusive. In this paper we attempt to fill this gap by using a conventional empirical approach in contemporary environmental economics and new data on economic activity and water quality for nineteen countries from 1990-2014. The authors find that when rivers become very heavily polluted, regions downstream see reductions in economic growth, losing between 0.8 and 2.0 percent of economic growth. These losses imply that in many places, the costs of environmental degradation are severely under-estimated and well above efficient levels.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2019-12-10) Zaveri, Esha ; Russ, Jason ; Desbureaux, Sebastien ; Damania, Richard ; Rodella, Aude-Sophie ; Ribeiro, GiovannaThe fallout of nitrogen pollution is considered one of the largest global externalities facing the world, impacting air, water soil and human health. This paper presents new evidence that nitrogen pollution in water is an important determinant of variations in human capital. Data from the Demographic and Health Survey dataset across India, Vietnam, and 33 African countries are combined to analyze the causal links between pollution exposure experienced during the very earliest stages of life and later-life health. Results show that pollution exposure experienced in the critical years of development from the period of birth up until year 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. 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.