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Peri-urban water supply: a sustainable model in post-conflict Angola

Published on: 16/12/2009

One of the important challenges of post-war reconstruction is to provide more and better quality basic services, such as water. Previous attempts at upgrading main supply systems to accommodate peri-urban areas have been overwhelmed by the explosive demographic growth of Angola's major cities brought about by many years of civil war.

A new paper by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) documents strategies developed by the informal private sector and local communities themselves to meet the demand for water services that the Angolan Government has been unable to provide.

The paper demonstrates that local communities’ own engagement in the management of water distribution and their assumption of the responsibility for maintenance and the payment of service fees is a sustainable and affordable model. The paper also points out that building on the successes of existing locally driven initiatives, can bring national and international water targets closer to realisation and that local innovations not only improve water provision, but do so in a manner that involves and responds to the urban poor more than conventional water projects do.

Drawing on a literature review and the experience of Development Workshop (DW) in supporting peri-urban water services in Luanda, the paper provides lessons and recommendations for partnerships, financing and cost recovery, mapping tools, and scaling-up.

Angolan politicians have often defended the position that basic services should be free of charge, but this has in practice resulted in a lack of funds being available for maintenance of the existing services. Central government income from the country’s extractive industries has rarely trickled down to basic service provision in peri-urban and rural areas and as a result, the poor find themselves paying more for essential services from the private sector or losing income because of frequent illness from contaminated water.

An opposite position, the “privatization” approach, has been promoted by international financial institutions, resulting in an obsession with “profitability”, with little attention being paid to affordability, accountability, maintenance, and regulation.

To provide a sustainable service, it is necessary to adopt cost-recovery principles and to charge an affordable fee for water that is used to keep the local infrastructure operational. Relying solely on centralized funds from the state budget to maintain local infrastructure in the peri-urban bairros has proved unrealistic. An inevitable part of developing sustainable basic services is the creation of accountable institutions. These principles have been incorporated into the legal framework for water services that has been formulated in the Water Law, 6/02, published in 2002. This document provides an overall policy and strategies and defines the organisational structures for an integrated management of the water resources. In this document amongst other regulations, it is indicated that users should pay a financial contribution (“taxes”) for the maintenance of their water systems.

In 2008 the Government launched the “Agua para Todos“ or Water for All Programme. At its launch the National Water Director made a public commitment to provide water to communities “wherever they are” signaling a new more inclusive government policy to bring water to poor-previously excluded communities.

Cain, A. and Mulenga, M. (2009) Water service provision for the peri-urban poor in post-conflict Angola. (Human settlements working paper series. Water ; 8). London, UK, International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED). 56 p. ; 10 fig., 8 photos, 15 tab. ISBN 978-1-84369-754-1

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