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City-wide planning for water and sanitation

Poor infrastructure is challenging sustainable water and sanitation facilities, particularly for the poorest communities.

WASH Matters

The changing landscape of water and sanitation

Cities across Africa are undergoing dramatic changes as population growth and rural-urban migration drive rapid expansion. As a result, informal settlements and slum conditions are spreading. Africa’s overall population is forecast to increase by more than a billion people by 2050 and many cities and towns are likely to double, or even treble, in size as a result.

Urban planning authorities face many challenges in providing services to meet the population’s needs. Under the burden of current expansion, they may not be able to plan for the decades to come as well as building the infrastructure needed to support cities’ growth. Existing infrastructure is coming under increasing pressure, forcing the poorest people to settle in unplanned areas, where they are without water, roads, drainage, sewage systems or other facilities.

Slums are often located in the most vulnerable areas of the cities and suffer problems such as water source contamination and flooding, which are only compounded by overcrowding and the poor quality of existing infrastructure.

The city-wide project

Against this backdrop, WaterAid began the City-Wide Urban Planning for Sanitation and Water project in April 2012, to look in detail at this issue. The project aims to understand the issues and provide the support needed to boost spatial planning for water and sanitation.

While city and national governments have limited capacity and funds to deal with rapid change in urban areas, the development community is raising concerns over financial absorption and the lack of disposable portfolio opportunities to invest in water and sanitation infrastructure.

Case studies were written up around four African cities: Lagos, Maputo, Kinshasa and Lusaka. The work links thematic areas such as urban, finance and water security/climate change and involves WaterAid Country Programmes and UK-based teams.

We are working with architects and planners from Sheppard Robson, who have been contracted to focus on a comprehensive approach for each city. Current rapid urbanisation and the impact of climate change, combined with both residential and industrial development on water quality, are to be taken into account.

Sustainability of finances, human resources, technology and the environment will be fully considered. Development of the analysis is being conducted in close collaboration with the governments, municipal authorities and utilities responsible for the case study cities during consultative workshops in each city.

What we’ve done so far

Workshops were held in Maputo at the end of June, and in Lusaka at the end of September, involving members of the relevant municipal departments, ministries, utilities and organisations involved in the sector. The attendees expressed interest in the studies and committed to refining the proposal for their cities. Workshops in Lagos and Kinshasa will be held by the end of 2013 to allow us to improve our understanding of the challenges faced in these cities.

This approach was also presented to several donors in the countries (AfDB, EU, JICA, DFID) and to the African Development Bank Headquarter in Tunis where the major benefits of integrating broader infrastructure into consideration of water and sanitation was widely recognised.

The project is expected to produce:

  • High-level analysis and plans specifically for water and sanitation infrastructure.
  • New analysis and plans for cities where there are none or where plans have lapsed.
  • Additional proposals for those cities where they exist but are in need of extension and updating.
  • Long-term plans, with a planning horizon of 50 to 100 years.

The plans will be pro-poor, ensuring informal, peri-urban settlements and slums are incorporated, and aligned with existing broader infrastructure plans for the cities concerned.

Read more about our work in urban areas in our Urban framework >