Operational Policy 4.04: Natural Habitats seeks to ensure that World Bank-supported infrastructure and other development projects take into account the conservation of biodiversity, as well as the numerous environmental services and products which natural habitats provide to human society. The policy strictly limits the circumstances under which any Bank-supported project can damage natural habitats (land and water areas where most of the native plant and animal species are still present).
Specifically, the policy prohibits Bank support for projects which would lead to the significant loss or degradation of any Critical Natural Habitats, whose definition includes those natural habitats which are either:
- legally protected,
- officially proposed for protection, or
- unprotected but of known high conservation value.
In other (non-critical) natural habitats, Bank supported projects can cause significant loss or degradation only when
- there are no feasible alternatives to achieve the project's substantial overall net benefits; and
- acceptable mitigation measures, such as compensatory protected areas, are included within the project.