Access to water and sanitation in low-income communities requires the confrontation of various challenges, as well as the pursuit for new solutions so the goals to be reached by 2030. The necessary changes through community involvement in the process of building alternatives, mobilization of resources, integration of new technologies and energy sources, in addition to partnerships with the various stakeholders to build a sustainable model.

These were some of the conclusions highlighted by speakers at the special session "Urban poverty and water" held on Wednesday (21), at Ulysses Guimarães Convention Center in Brasília.  The panel opened space to bring the voice of the community to the debate and show both successful experiences and problems that should receive priority attention to ensure the human right to water and sanitation to low-income populations.

The President of the National Association of Municipal Sanitation Services (Assemae), Aparecido Hojaij, shared a solution found in the municipality of Porto Alegre (Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil), deployed in 2012, the Responsible Consumption Program, which was carried out in irregular areas that had different degrees of urban infrastructure and services.

One of the goals of the program was to implant a water supply network to decrease or eliminate the risk of contamination, regulate water connections, and promote social participation, health and environmental education. "The idea is for the community to monitor the implementation of the water supply network and then join social programs," stated Hojaji.

Volume x Quality

Mukta Akter, from the Bangladesh Water Partnership (BWP), spoke about the reality of the country's capital, where the water supply suffers strong dependence on groundwater, sewage treatment is inadequate and the high volume of water from storms overload the drainage stations. This set of factors directly affects water resources and their adequate supply. "The lower-income populations are most affected by this shortage, both in terms of quality and in quantity," warned Akter.

To turn the situation around, Akter Mukta points out the necessity to balance out the use of surface water and groundwater, in a management manner which thinks more about the low-income populations, new projects for the sewage treatment system, which is old, strong drainage and more investments.

The representative of the Women for Water Partnership, Asha Abdulrahman, made comments about Nairobi and stressed that one of the biggest problems on the issue of water supply and sanitation is populational growth. "I was born in the slums of Nairobi and had water and proper garbage collection, but today because of the high rate of populational growth, the situation got worse. All this brings human degradation," she lamented.

Abdulrahman even mentioned one of the consequences of this lack of access to basic services mentioned above, which are the diseases brought on by lack of water, sanitation and education. According to her, 60% of the country’s population lives informally and one of the exits found was to create a prepaid water supply system "you have access according to your ability to pay for it," she explained.

Economic return

Oswar Mulenga, from the African Development Bank, highlighted the challenges for African countries to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGSs) and said that it is necessary to have policies for the short term. "We approved long-term development policies focused on inclusive development," he said.

For Jaime Holguin, from the Latin American Development Bank (CAF), it is necessary to strengthen local and national capacity, as well as to create community development programs. "There is a great economic return for investments in water and sanitation," he pointed out.

The panel also featured contributions from Catarina de Albuquerque, from the Sanitation and Water for All (SWA); Dinesh Suna, Coordinator of the Ecumenical Water Network for the World Council of Churches; Shruti Mehta, of the Program for Youth of the Asian Development Bank; Thomas Van Waeyenberge, AquaFed;Kamal Mohammedi, from Algeria, Iman AbdEl Al, from the Committee of the Citizen Forum Process and was moderated by François Brikké.