Scarcity, Entitlements and the Economics of Water in Developing Countries

Scarcity, Entitlements and the Economics of Water in Developing Countries

New Horizons in Environmental Economics series

P. B. Anand

P.B. Anand argues that if water supply and sanitation were mainly problems of technology or financial resources, they would have been resolved long ago. While appreciating that technology and finances are important, he ascertains that there are many other factors affecting our ability to intervene and improve the effectiveness of policies. The author explores these factors, raising questions such as ‘How is water scarcity defined?’, ‘Are there patterns that indicate how nations use available freshwater resources?’, ‘Does water shortage make nations use water more efficiently?’, and ‘What explains the variation in progress with regard to Millennium Development Goals related to water and sanitation?’.

Chapter 3: Access to Water Supply: Achieving the Millennium Development Goal

P. B. Anand

Subjects: development studies, development economics, economics and finance, development economics, environmental economics, environment, environmental economics, water


3.1 INTRODUCTION Scarcity often manifests itself in terms of the proportion of population having access to a safe water supply. In terms of water resources there is not much difference between Egypt, Kenya and Burkina Faso: each of them has approximately 900 cubic metres of fresh water per person. However, there is considerable variation in the proportion of population having access to improved sources of water: 98 per cent in Egypt, 62 per cent in Kenya and 51 per cent in Burkina Faso (based on data from WHO–UNICEF, 2004). Democratic Republic of Congo has some 25,000 cubic metres of fresh water per capita and the Republic of Congo has 10 times that quantity of fresh water per capita. In both those countries, the proportion of the population having access to improved water sources is 46 per cent. The example of Cheerapunji in Meghalaya state in northeastern India is often cited (see, for example, Agarwal and Narain, 1997; Rathore, 2004; Saxena et al., 2005). It holds the record for the highest amount of annual rainfall, with much of this rainfall occurring during the monsoon months (June–September); yet, it has been reported to be facing acute water scarcity during certain months in a year. Lack of access to water and sanitation has both direct and indirect impacts on well-being and quality of life. Households and communities without access to improved sources often need to spend significant amounts of time and energy in transporting and storing water; as...

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