Access to Water in the Slums of the Developing World
According to the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), 924 million people lived in slums in 2001. Population growth in these settlements is much greater than in other urban areas. The estimates suggest that this figure may rise to 1.5 billion by 2020 (Payne, 2005). This rapid increase is expected despite ?slum upgrading? efforts that have been taking place for decades, though inconsistently and with disruptions over time. There is a prolific literature on informal settlement areas, but research on access to essential services such as water and sanitation (WS) in these areas is very limited. Most studies consider issues of access in connection to urban poverty, an approach that often reduces the discussion to the income and expenditure constraints faced by households. Examining access to WS in the slums spurs an appreciation of the multidimensional nature of the problem, including income poverty, infrastructural limitations, asset ownership and housing quality. Moreover, developments in the slums concern every aspect of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). This paper examines the conditions of access to water in the slums of the developing world. It has three goals. The first is to identify the objective and policy-related challenges that hinder progress in the provision of safe, affordable, continuous and easy access to water in countries where there is a sizeable slum population. The second is to explore the existing systems of provision in informal settlements and to discuss the weaknesses and strengths of each. The third is to make policy recommendations. Though the discussion on access to sanitation is limited, this is not to deny the importance of that issue. Besides, water and sanitation services are often intrinsically linked and therefore are provided together by network utilities. The discussion reveals the failure of public policies as well as markets to provide satisfactory solutions to the problems of access to a safe, affordable and continuous water supply. In many countries, especially those in Sub-Saharan Africa, access to safe water through household connections declined in the 1990s. Achievements in access rates in many Asian and African economies are the due to widespread use of public water points such as public standpipes and kiosks. These sources are important, but doubtless the quality of access to water with these facilities is unsatisfactory since they involve greater effort by households, involving queuing, carrying water and lacking continuous access. A substantial proportion of urban dwellers in developing countries, especially in unplanned settlements, rely on a wide range of small-scale providers whose services are vital in the absence of alternatives. Their services, however, are often inferior to those provided by the formal network. Invariably, the water charges of alternative sources are higher than those for supply from the public network. Section 2 provides a general discussion of informal settlements and outlines the growth of slum development and trends in access to water supply since 1990. Section 3 examines changing public policies towards squatter settlements and the challenges such settlements pose. Section 4 presents the problems associated with the existing market-based water supply arrangements in countries where a sizeable proportion of the urban population resides in informal settlement areas. We then argue for the need to pursue a more proactive public policy on the basis of a discussion that highlights the limitations of private sector ventures. The paper concludes with a number of policy recommendations.
|Date of creation:||Jun 2009|
|Date of revision:|
|Publication status:||Published by UNDP - International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth , June 2009, pages 1-28|
|Contact details of provider:|| Web page: http://www.ipc-undp.org|
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