Chapter 2: Providing Clean Water and Sanitation

State of the World 2007 - Our Urban Future
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-David Satterthwaite and Gordon McGranahan

Clean, convenient water supplies for drinking and bathing and convenient toilets became routine only in the last 100–150 years. I n the 19th century, cities of the industrializing world were notorious for being far less healthy than their rural surrounds, until the sanitary revolution provided them with piped water and sewerage systems. Today, about 1 billion urban dwellers are still waiting for their sanitary revolution.

The health costs of inadequate sanitation are very large. One million or more infants and children still die each year from diseases related directly to inadequate provision of water and sanitation, and hundreds of millions are debilitated by illness, pain, and discomfort.

Most examples of improved water and sanitation are underpinned by government recognition of the legitimacy of the needs of unserved groups, including those who live in illegal settlements. Organizations of the urban poor and other local nongovernmental groups also play an important role in turning the sanitation situation around, demonstrating to governments the possibilities of improved provision and the benefits of working together toward that end.

David Satterthwaite is a Senior Fellow at the Human Settlements Group and Gordon McGranahan is Director of the Human Settlements Group at the International Institute for Environment and Development in London.