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TitleGovernance of urban environmental sanitation: a case from Belo Horizonte, Brazil
Publication TypeMiscellaneous
Year of Publication2008
AuthorsSmits, S, N. Nascimento, deOliveira, Dias, J, Nunes, T, Knauer, S
Pagination27 p.
Date Published08-2008
Place PublishedBelo Horizonte (Brazil)

Although many cities in Latin America have advanced in provision of water supply services, environmental sanitation services provision has lagged behind. These sanitation challenges need to be addressed within a framework of Integrated Urban Water Management (IUWM), given the fact that the different elements of environmental sanitation, such as sewerage and stormwater drainage, are inter-related, with potential externalities within the city, as well as at catchment level. It also means that there will be a range of stakeholders with different, often divergent, interest, who will try to articulate these within the existing governance framework. In the region, various governance modalities around environmental sanitation are emerging, as the cities are addressing
sanitation issues. The SWITCH Project aims to strengthen IUWM, amongst others, by promoting improved governance through a so-called Learning Alliance approach. This paper aims to analyse the actual governance framework in one of the SWITCH cities: Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

The main challenge of the urban water complex lies in the drainage of stormwater and wastewater. The intense urban growth during the 1970s led to huge impacts on water quality in receiving bodies and an increase of flood risk. Since then, a change in paradigm to drainage has been occurring, making better use of natural drainage courses, by improving urban creeks, detention ponds, wetlands, and investments in wastewater interception and treatment.

This change in paradigm has been facilitated and reinforced through the democratization of decision-making processes on sanitation. The city of Belo Horizonte has seized the opportunities of decentralization, and tried to democratize its entire governance structure, including around sanitation. One of the clearest manifestations of that is the establishment of platforms and mechanism for participatory strategic planning of sanitation. These have allowed for more integrated investments, which are responsive to the priorities of citizens. In addition, it has increased transparency, and proved to be instrumental in raising external funds for investments in sanitation.

Governance over operational decision-making processes and O&M could still be improved. While some programmes and units have developed and piloted methodologies for participatory planning of interventions, others are lagging behind. One of the reasons for this lag is that traditional engineering approaches and skills are still common among staff.

Also, governance over sanitation issues that cross the city boundaries could be strengthened. The catchment committee, with its management instruments, has the potential to support municipalities in achieving more integrated water management. Yet, these instruments are not yet well-developed, nor applied. Also, at metropolitan level, mechanisms for cooperation and joint decision-making on sanitation issues, are not institutionalised.


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