New Horizons in Environmental Economics series
Chapter 8: Justice, Rights and Sustainability: Access to Water and the Capability Approach
8.1 INTRODUCTION Inequality in access to water can be addressed in a number of alternative ways. A pro-poor water policy can be designed in such a way that the nonpoor self-select themselves to opt out. The provision of standpipes was considered pro-poor because collecting and transporting water involves a considerable amount of time and labour. However, persistent water stress can lead to the development of water markets. In such cases, the standpipes may become subject to capture by individuals who create rents by harvesting water and selling it. Another form of inequality is that which is manifested in terms of location: those living in peri-urban areas or in slums and other informal settlements often do not have access to improved sources of water. Other forms of inequality include those that limit access to water for productive purposes such as agriculture or water-intensive industrial activities; those that limit access to water resources regionally or subregionally; and so on. Designing appropriate institutions to address such inequalities remains an important challenge. The aim of this chapter is to consider right to water in relation to the application of the capability approach (CA) to improving access to water. A CA to human development focuses on expanding substantive freedoms (Sen, 1999a). There has been some discussion on the synergy between a rights-based approach to development and a CA. For instance, a number of items in the list of the so-called ‘central human capabilities’1 (Nussbaum, 2000) seem closely related to various rights speciﬁed in the...
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