World’s slums need water infrastructure

Poor prospects of a decent financial return should not stop governments in the developing world from investing in water infrastructure.

This was the message of NGO WaterAid when its representatives delivered a paper at the UN World Urban Forum last week.

Rapid urbanisation is creating a sanitation crisis that threatens to spiral out of control, says the organisation.

While it acknowledges that water and sewer infrastructure comes with a price tag, it argues that it is a case of pay now or pay even more later.

The report, Turning slums around: the case for water and sanitation says that both governments in developing worlds and those of the wealthier countries that offer them aid are not giving enough priority to sanitation.

It outlines how chronic water and sanitation shortages in slums are being exacerbated by swelling populations and health, education and economic problems risk becoming unmanageable.

Timeyin Uwejamomere, WaterAid policy officer and author of the paper said: “sanitation and water are integral to urban development and yet there is no coherent commitment by governments and donors to address this crisis.

“It needs to be given the highest priority and recognition that water and sanitation bring massive health, education and economic benefits.

“Without the aid system responding to the challenges of rapid urbanisation, the struggle against poverty is not going to be well-targeted.”

The paper says that over the next 30 years developing countries are to triple their population size and account for 80% of the world’s urban population – the majority of this population, 60%, will live in slums.

Currently over one billion people live in slums and this figure is rising by 25 million a year. Only 1% of housing and urban aid gets to urban slums.

Although Asia presently has over half the world’s slum population (581 million), Africa is expected to exceed this percentage by 2020.

To tackle this crisis WaterAid is calling on city authorities and national governments to make sanitation and water a priority in all urban reform plans and to explicitly focus on the growing urban slums.

Sam Bond

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