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TitlePolitical and social dynamics in upgrading urban sanitation : a case from Colombo, Sri Lanka
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2008
AuthorsSmet, JEM
Pagination10 p. : 1 box, 3 photo's
Date Published11/2008
Place PublishedDelft, The Netherlands
Publication LanguageEnglish
Keywordsaccess to sanitation, low-income communities, sanitation, sanitation charges, sanitation services, sri lanka, sri lanka colombo, urban areas, urban communities

The Basic Urban Services project in Colombo (Sri Lanka) aimed to improve low-income urban sanitation through multi-stakeholder involvement at local, municipal and agency level. The project covered Kotte Municipal Council and Wattala Urban Council areas. In Kotte the focus was on developing and pilot testing an integrated solid waste management strategy. In Wattala (in the slum Oliyamulla) the project addressed both innovative community-based solid waste management panning and field-testing, and wastewater management in a flood-prone, waterlogged area. At Oliyamulla community level a Community Development Council was established to facilitate the community voice to be heard and as a communication channel for discussions on implementation options. Multi stakeholder Working Groups consisted of municipality staff, NGOs and Technical Advisers from UN-Habitat. This paper describes the community, institutional and political dynamics in these urban sanitation projects. In Kotte an innovative environmental and pro-poor (income-generating) integrated solid waste management strategy (focus on recycling) was eventually not implemented. The new Mayor and Commissioner could not convince the newly elected Municipal Council on this strategy and waste dumping continued and incineration was to be added as the alternative option. In Oliyamulla (Wattala) the project became out-of-touch with municipality and community. The community rejected the feasible sanitation solutions; negligence of national and local government helped a local dweller put force to definitely stop the building a community-based solid waste sorting centre. The paper analyses the process in the Working Groups, in the Councils and in the community. The main conclusion is that political dynamics are hard to manage from a sole sanitation strategy perspective. Urban projects should be demand-based and built on a critical appreciation. The project missed opportunities by not timely reacting to changing political arenas and incorporating the political agendas.

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