Local management of a global tension : cost recovery and social equity in urban water and sanitation provision in Durban, South Africa
Author(s)Hooper, Michael Craig, 1974-
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning.
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Conventional wisdom in the water and sanitation sector holds that it is difficult to make simultaneous headway towards both cost recovery and serving the poor. The case of Durban, South Africa, is often held to be one of the few examples where significant progress towards both of these ends has been achieved. This thesis asks, to what extent Durban has actually been able to recover costs and meet the needs of the poor and examines how gains in these areas, if any, have been achieved. This thesis indicates that eThekwini Water Services (EWS), the Durban water and sanitation service provider, has had mixed success in achieving cost recovery. The agency's Water Department has moved towards improved cost recovery since 1994/95. Cost recovery for water supply in Durban is on par with benchmarks set by top-tier African providers but still remains well below standards established by American private sector providers. In the Wastewater Department, however, growing annual deficits have been recorded in every year from 1994/95 to 2002/03. This thesis shows that the technological and policy innovations implemented by EWS have increased water and sanitation coverage for the poor in Durban. Durban's free basic water policy, in which each household receives 6 kL of water free per month, has been in part responsible for these gains. At the same time, while connectivity has increased, the rate of service disconnections has risen over the period 1994/95 to 2002/03. As well, tariffs have risen for levels of consumption above 6 kL per month. Both of these factors negatively affect poor households, especially those that are large, and temper the gains otherwise made in connectivity. The dynamic relationship between EWS' cost recovery strategies and efforts to serve the poor is central to understanding the Durban case. The agency recognized from an early point that it was financially prudent not to charge for low volumes of water. This recognition, combined with a need to make cost recovery palatable to the public and elected representatives, made provision of the 6 kL lifeline volume an extremely attractive policy option for EWS. However, the fact that EWS' efforts to achieve cost recovery are so intimately connected with the agency's strategies for serving the poor is the primary reason that the gains EWS has achieved are contested. Furthermore, the fact that the Durban model for achieving cost recovery and serving the poor is so dependent on local administrative capacity and efficiency limits its application more widely. The case should be instructive, however, for advocates for the poor who wish to understand how the rhetoric and complex politics of cost recovery and serving the poor are becoming ever more entwined.
Thesis (M.C.P.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning, 2003.This electronic version was submitted by the student author. The certified thesis is available in the Institute Archives and Special Collections.Includes bibliographical references.
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Urban Studies and Planning.