Urban Water and Sanitation: Who cares about Poor?

Posted on January 27, 2011

0


012711_0803_UrbanWatera1.jpg

The city development planning and judicious resource allocation in most of the cities in South Asian countries is a big challenge. Among the basic amenities, water and sanitation remained the core concern that lead to health problems, livelihood losses and an impediment to economic growth. Given the population growth and rapid migration from rural to urban areas, the cities are swelling at an unprecedented rate, while resources are limited in terms of land, water, forest and basic amenities.

The cities in South Asia have grown rapidly in terms of their population sizes, but not proportionately in terms of quality of urban services and facilities. When we take example of India; in term of services, no Indian city provides water 24/7, only half the population has access to safe drinking water, and less than a third has access to sanitation.

The land prices have gone up; the poor are confronted with affordability of shelter, which ultimately forces them to live in unauthorized localities, which we generally call ‘slums’ or ‘unauthorized’ colonies. They in one way are synonymous to ‘No-man’s Land’, and survive on the mercy of local authorities (e.g. municipality) to recognize them (in their city planning process) or throw them out overnight, for a new project or township. These colonies are extremely unhygienic, filth ridden and are ones nightmare to live. There, you will not find basic services and civic amenities, and in case someone gets that, is a different story altogether.

Let me further quote example from India, where it is estimated that over the next 40 years India will experience one of the most dramatic settlement transitions in history, as its urban population grows from about 300 million to more than 700 million. The public services fall short, largely because, they have little or no accountability to the ultimate client, and outdated management systems are unable to provide the information needed for decision-making. Similarly, the municipal solid waste and sewage generation in Indian cities have significantly increased over the years from 6 million tons in 1947 to over 69 million tons in 2006, which is becoming a major environmental threat and hazard to the poor.

The integrated city developmental plans related to shelter, basic services, civic amenities like water, sanitation, education, health facilities are failing due to uncoordinated approaches and poor planning processes. The City Development Planning processes are not guided by a comprehensive approach of planning and ensuring active participation of people. They are being developed in bits and pieces, where poor are further marginalized.

Given present situation, there is urgent need to devise appropriate city development planning processes by the governments in South Asia, those consider adequate provisions for basic services like water and sanitation among others. Without considering the inclusive planning process, there are chances that the ongoing efforts in city planning will not be sustainable. This may further pose serious climatic vulnerability among poor population living in the slums of urban areas in terms of increasing intensity of droughts, shortage of drinking water and increased in food and other commodity prices and related health hazards.

You may like to know from an interview by BBC Correspondent Mike Thomson who traveled in November 2010 to rural Bihar to meet the so-called manual scavengers whose work – removing human waste from dry latrines – has been outlawed by the government due to prejudice and abuse, but still exists in practice. Link to Dirty, horrible job’ of manual scavengers>>

Posted in: Environment, Water