The 1980s were declared the “UN International Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation Decade”. The goal was to ensure that everyone in the world had access to adequate water supply and sanitation within a decade, but the goal was far from met. Access to sufficient water for basic human needs should be considered a human right, and is in some countries secured by the constitution. A highly considerable cost recovery policy has been promoted at the expense of the human right to water.
Over the past 20-25 years public utilities have been seen as failing to provide water services in developing countries. In response to this, a strategy of privatisation within the water and sanitation sector has been promoted internationally since the 1980s. Private companies were considered to be more efficient than public utilities. They were expected to be able to provide better water services for people with low incomes.The World Bank and the international donor community have promoted privatisation as the main solution to the water crisis for more than a decade. But the impact of privatisation on water needs in developing countries has generally been negative.One of the principal arguments offered by proponents of privatisation is that private management or ownership of water systems can reduce the water prices paid by consumers. Ironically, privatisation and commercialisation have led to higher costs for water and water services. In many cases making water unaffordable for the poor.Most of the privatisation has taken place in a top-downmanner. The authoritarian decisions at the presidential level or through strict conditionality imposed by international financial institutions and donors.Few political decisions have caused so much civil unrest as the privatisation of water. All over the world people have risen up due to price hikes and poor water delivery in the aftermath of water privatisation.“Uncompetitive” and corrupt bidding processes are the rule rather than the exception. A Privatisation can hardly be justified on the grounds of spurring competition, efficiency and transparency.As of publicly regulated monopolies are simply being replaced by private foreign-owned monopolies.The public sector is generally unable to compete with private bidders, since multinational companies have been “subsidised” and prioritised by international financial institutions.As a consequence of lower than expected revenues, currency fluctuations and resistance from local citizens, resulting that the multinationals are finding it less attractive to invest in developing countries.
It is necessary to develop a competent public authority on water and sanitation before private companies are involved. A contracts must be well-designed to ensure public control and be relatively short-term. Transfer of improved management practices to the public operators should be an aim. Cooperation between public authorities and local initiatives by users of water and sanitation services can turn out to be successful.Civil society, alongside local and national governments, and the local and national private sector should assist in the education, mobilisation and capacity building of communities in the development of sustainable water and sanitation policy, plans and implementation ; scaling up successful community initiatives, like rainwater harvesting and riverbed sand dams, build on water management and respect community based solutions. ensure the sustainability of water resources, involving local users and women in the decision-making processes and management. Capacity building inputs are critical to enable local communities to participate and manage local water resources in line with national policies and plans.
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