Recent scholarship has called for widening investigations of cities through the analysis of everyday practices that shape urban life. Critical water studies have contributed to this emerging debate by using an everyday lens to document the diversity of practices of accessing and distributing water. Thus far, little attention has been given to the everyday practices of setting water prices and how these shape access. We contribute to this gap by investigating the practices of setting prices in two distinct service modalities within Lilongwe’s water supply network. Our study reveals the hybrid and dynamic arrangements that shape pricing regimes, formed through the formal and informal negotiations on subsidies, incentives, tariff increases and distribution of profits. In these negotiations, the decision makers opportunistically mobilise their different and at times conflicting mandates (business and social) and guiding principles (equity versus cost-recovery). We conclude that pricing regimes are the outcome of intertwined structural processes and everyday practices that exacerbate uneven water flows in the city.
Introduction The launch of the Water and Sanitation Decade (1980-90) marked the first attempt to place urban sanitation within national governments and international organizations’ development agendas. Since then, inclusion of sanitation within the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and global campaigns such as the UN Sanitation Year (2008), the End of Open Defecation Campaign, and World Toilet Day have institutionalized sanitation as one of the core development goals until 2030 and beyond. However, the results of many of these sanitation development initiatives have been disappointing. Regional statistics show alarming results for Sub-Saharan Africa, where urban population growth has outpaced gains in sanitation coverage since the 1990s; 14 out of 46 countries declined in sanitation coverage (UNICEF/WHO, 2015: 17). The MDGs were unable to eliminate inequalities in access to sanitation between rich and poor urban dwellers in most countries (UNICEF/WHO 2015). Depressing as this is, the MDGs have focused only on distributive outcomes (access to infrastructure), overlooking other dimensions of sanitation inequality. Failing to address these dimensions hampers development interventions which aim to reduce these inequalities: sub-surface flows of untreated wastewaters contaminate urban poor settlements’ shallow groundwater sources, displacing health risks onto the poorest, and reducing developmental opportunities for children and adults who themselves may already be using “improved” sanitation services (Graham and Polizzotto, 2013); building onsite sanitation infrastructure and improved access to latrines without provision for emptying or sludge removal services compromises long-term health benefits from “improved” sanitation (Jenkins et al., 2015; Tsinda et al., 2013). Finally, dimensions of access must include consideration of safety and comfort plus any particular needs of urban poor residents who are marginalized by age, disabilities, gender, or other social relations, so they can use the infrastructure provided (Hulland et al., 2015; Wilbur and Jones, 2014). Ignoring these dimensions of environmental and social inequalities can reverse any positive gains in terms of increased distribution of infrastructure. In this chapter, we develop the concept of sanitation justice to capture these dimensions of inequalities and their relations, which are often overlooked in debates on development targets for sanitation. In Section 2 we briefly review analyses of inequalities in relation to sanitation already present in the ecological justice literature, specifically urban political ecology and environmental justice. We draw from this literature to define three dimensions of sanitation justice: distributive, procedural, and recognitional justice.
This article explores the role of large-scale water infrastructure in the formation of states in sub-Saharan Africa. We examine this through a focus on government agents and their shifting hydro-developmental visions of the state in colonial and post-colonial Mozambique. Over time, the focus, underlying principles and goals of the hydraulic mission shifted, triggered by contextual factors and historical developments within and outside the country. We identify the making of three hydraulic paradigms, fostering different imaginaries of 'the state' and social and spatial engineering of the territory: the 'Estado Novo' (1930-1974), the socialist post-independence state-space (1974-1987) and the neoliberal state (1987-present). We then conclude by discussing how the shifting discursive justifications for infrastructure projects consolidate different state projects and link these to material re-patterning of hydrosocial territories. Whilst promoted as a rupture with the past, emerging projects tend to reaffirm, rather than redistribute, power and water within the country.
Urban scholars have long proposed moving away from a conceptualisation of infrastructure as given and fixed material artefacts to replace it with one that makes it the very object of theorisation and explanation. Yet, very few studies have seriously investigated the role of infrastructure in co-shaping and mediating inequities. We use this paper to propose a way to engage with the technical intricacies of designing, operating and maintaining a water supply network, using these as an entry-point for describing, mapping and explaining differences and inequities in accessing water. The paper first proposes a methodological approach to systematically characterise and investigate material water flows in the water supply network. We then apply this approach to the case of water supply in Lilongwe, Malawi. Here, strategies for dealing with challenges of water shortage in the city have often entailed the construction of large water infrastructures to produce extra water. We show that the network's material properties direct and divert most of the extra water to elite neighbourhoods rather than to those low-income areas where shortages are most acute. Our analysis shows how social and technical processes mutually constitute each other in the production and rationalisation of this highly uneven waterscape. We conclude that further theorisations of infrastructure as providing part of the explanation for how urban inequities are produced need to be anchored in the systematic and detailed empirical study of the network-in-use. Mapping the (changing) carrying capacities of pipes, storage capacities of service reservoirs and the strategic locations of new pipe extensions-to name a few important network descriptors-provides tangible entry-points for revealing and tracing how materials not only embody but also change social relations of power, thereby helping explain how inequities in access to water come about and endure.
Visual methods are becoming increasingly popular in social sciences, but are still little explored when it comes to water related studies. Drawing on literature on visual methods and documentary filmmaking, this paper reflects on the role and potential of videography to capture and visualize inequalities in urban water supply and access. The paper is based on research undertaken over a period of 4 years, in which a mix of talk based and videographic methods was used to capture the production of uneven conditions of access to water in Lilongwe, Malawi, and Maputo, Mozambique. It reflects on the important and unique ethical questions raised by video‐based methods, including the data collection process, the type of knowledge that is produced, how it is mobilized, who has access to it and the relation between representation of social reality and the power of storytelling. This article is categorized under: • Human Water > Methods • Engineering Water > Planning Water • Human Water > Rights to Water
There is an increasing recognition of the need to understand and address risks of various kinds in African cities. However, there have been very few explicit examinations of the way in which the specific characteristics of African urbanisation and urbanism drive risk, or the way in which responses to risk should take these characteristics into account. This paper presents a critical review of the key features of African urban experiences, and analyses the implications for the creation and reduction of diverse risks, from the everyday to the extensive. It argues that the physical forms, social structures, economic pathways, and governance systems of cities on the continent shape their risk profiles. Of particular importance are the nature of spatial expansion, the demographic profiles of cities, and the prevalence of informal economies and settlements; while the reform of governance systems will be critical to enable risk reduction. The paper concludes that urban development actors need to consider the consequences of their actions for risk, while risk reduction practitioners will need to engage with all elements of urban development, including informality, urban poverty, infrastructure and service provision, land management, and local governance capacity.
Urban political ecology attempts to unravel and politicize the socio-ecological processes that produce uneven waterscapes. At the core of this analysis are the choreographies of power that influence how much water flows through urban infrastructure as well as where it flows, thereby shaping conditions and quality of access in cities. If these analyses have been prolific in demonstrating uneven distribution of infrastructures and water quantity, the political ecology of water quality remains largely overlooked. In this paper, we argue that there is a clear theoretical and practical need to address questions of quality in relation to water access in the South. We show that conceptual resources for considering differentiated drinking water quality are already present within urban political ecology. We then contend that an interdisciplinary approach, highlighting the interdependencies between politics, power, and physiochemical and microbiological contamination of drinking water, can further our understandings of both uneven distribution of water contamination and the conceptualisation of inequalities in the urban waterscape. We illustrate our argument through the case of water supply in Lilongwe, Malawi. Our political ecology analysis starts from an examination of the physicochemical and microbiological quality of water supplied by the formal water utility across urban spaces in Lilongwe. We then present the topography of water (quality) inequalities in Lilongwe and identify the political processes underlying the production of differentiated water quality within the centralised network. This paper thereby serves as a deepening of urban political ecology as well as a demonstration of how this approach might be taken forward in the analysis of urbanism and water supplies.
Taking issue with how associations between technical prowess or entrepreneurship and masculinity tend to be taken for granted or are seen as stemming from natural or intrinsic gender differences, over the last two decades feminist scholars have developed theoretical approaches to understand the gendering of professions and abilities as the performative outcome of particular cultures and histories. We build on these insights to explore how associations between masculinities, technology and entrepreneurship shape ideas and practices of small-scale water provision in Maputo. Our findings show how activities (i.e. technical craftsmanship, hard physical work) or abilities (i.e. risk-taking, innovativeness) regarded as masculine tend to be considered the defining features of the profession. This shapes how men and women make sense of and talk about their work. Each of them tactically emphasizing and performing those aspects best fitting their gender. Our detailed documentation of men’s and women’s everyday involvements in water provisioning challenges the existence of sharp boundaries and distinctions between genders and professional responsibilities. It shows that water provisioning requires many other types of work and skills and male and female household members collaborate and share their work. The strong normative-cultural associations between gender and water provisioning lead to a distinct under-recognition of women’s importance as water providers. We conclude that strategies to effectively support small-scale water businesses while creating more space and power for women involved in the business require the explicit recognition and re-conceptualization of water provisioning as a household business.
Over past decades strategies for improving access to drinking water in cities of the Global South have mainly focused on increasing coverage, while water quality has often been overlooked. This paper focuses on drinking water quality in the centralised water supply network of Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi. It shows how microbial contamination of drinking water is unequally distributed to consumers in low-income (unplanned areas) and higher-income neighbourhoods (planned areas). Microbial contamination and residual disinfectant concentration were measured in 170 water samples collected from in-house taps in high-income areas and from kiosks and water storage facilities in low-income areas between November 2014 and January 2015. Faecal contamination (E. coli) was detected in 10% of the 40 samples collected from planned areas, in 59% of the 64 samples collected from kiosks in the unplanned areas and in 75% of the 32 samples of water stored at household level. Differences in water quality in planned and unplanned areas were found to be statistically significant at p < 0.05. Finally, the paper shows how the inequalities in microbial contamination of drinking water are produced by decisions both on the development of the water supply infrastructure and on how this is operated and maintained.
In this article, we analyze the production of inequalities within the centralized water supply network of Lilongwe. We use a process-based analysis to understand how urban infrastructure is made to work and explain the disparity in levels of service by tracing the everyday practices of those who operate the infrastructure. This extends existing analyses of everyday practices in relation to urban water inequalities in African cities by focusing on formal operators, rather than water users, and looking within the networked system, rather than outside it. Our findings show that these practices work to exacerbate existing water stress in poor areas of the city. We conclude with a reflection on how understanding these practices as the product of the perceptions, rationalizations, and interpretations of utility staff who seek to manage the city’s (limited) water as best they can offers insight into what is required for a more progressive urban water politics.