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Economic Inequality and the Urban Environment: The Case of Water and Sanitation

  • Johnstone, Nick

This paper looks at the relationship between economic inequality and urban environmental quality in developing countries, with specific reference to the provision of water and sanitation services. The paper explores the consequences of “dual” systems, in which a proportion of a city’s residents are served by subsidised “town” water and sanitation facilities, whilst another section of the city has been forced to develop a variety of “on-site” strategies through their own efforts. A number of conclusions are reached: firstly, it is argued that poorer households are generally more adversely affected by low levels of provision and that standard project evaluation techniques perpetuate this bias; secondly, the cost structure of service provision implies that equal access to a standardised system is more efficient than the differentiated levels of access and treatment which prevail; and, thirdly, it is argued that access to water and sanitation and the means by which such systems are financed can be one of the most significant and effective means of distributing resources in the urban context.

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Paper provided by International Institute for Environment and Development, Environmental Economics Programme in its series Discussion Papers with number 24141.

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Date of creation: 1997
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ags:iieddp:24141
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  1. James Boyce, 1994. "Inequality as a Cause of Environmental Degradation," Published Studies ps1, Political Economy Research Institute, University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
  2. McGuire, Martin C & Aaron, Henry J, 1969. "Efficiency and Equity in the Optimal Supply of a Public Good," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 51(1), pages 31-39, February.
  3. Cairncross, Sandy & Kinnear, Joanne, 1992. "Elasticity of demand for water in Khartoum, Sudan," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 34(2), pages 183-189, January.
  4. Bengt Kristrom & Pere Riera, 1996. "Is the income elasticity of environmental improvements less than one?," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 7(1), pages 45-55, January.
  5. Quiggin, John, 1993. "Common property, equality, and development," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 21(7), pages 1123-1138, July.
  6. Broad, Robin, 1994. "The poor and the environment: Friends or foes?," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 22(6), pages 811-822, June.
  7. Baumol,William J. & Oates,Wallace E., 1988. "The Theory of Environmental Policy," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521311120, October.
  8. Whittington, Dale, et al, 1990. "Estimating the Willingness to Pay for Water Services in Developing Countries: A Case Study of the Use of Contingent Valuation Surveys in Southern Haiti," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 38(2), pages 293-311, January.
  9. Holtz-Eakin, Douglas & Selden, Thomas M., 1995. "Stoking the fires? CO2 emissions and economic growth," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 57(1), pages 85-101, May.
  10. Selden Thomas M. & Song Daqing, 1994. "Environmental Quality and Development: Is There a Kuznets Curve for Air Pollution Emissions?," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 147-162, September.
  11. Shafik, Nemat, 1994. "Economic Development and Environmental Quality: An Econometric Analysis," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 46(0), pages 757-73, Supplemen.
  12. Maler, Karl-Goran, 1985. "Welfare economics and the environment," Handbook of Natural Resource and Energy Economics, in: A. V. Kneese† & J. L. Sweeney (ed.), Handbook of Natural Resource and Energy Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 1, pages 3-60 Elsevier.
  13. Opschoor, J. (Hans) B., 1995. "Ecospace and the fall and rise of throughput intensity," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(2), pages 137-140, November.
  14. Boyce, James K., 1994. "Inequality as a cause of environmental degradation," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 11(3), pages 169-178, December.
  15. Fraas, Arthur G. & Munley, Vincent G., 1984. "Municipal wastewater treatment cost," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 11(1), pages 28-38, March.
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