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Water utility consultation with the urban poor in developing countries

By Sue Coates, Kevin Sansom and J. Colin


This article was published in the journal Proceedings of the ICE: Municipal Engineer [© Institution of Civil Engineers].Inadequate water services to the urban poor remain a serious problem in developing countries. Where services do exist, the chosen engineering solution often proves unsustainable. Engineers relying heavily on technical expertise can fail to understand the contextual factors determining what poor people want and are willing to pay. Although the concept of appropriate technology options is common enough, technology alone cannot provide a sustainable service. Tariffs and management options must also be designed to meet the needs of the poor. PREPP (participation-ranking-experience-perception-partnership), is a consumer consultation process for use by engineers with the support of social scientists and community development workers. These professionals traditionally see service provision from diverse perspectives and in developing countries they rarely work as a team. Through PREPP, engineers are able to understand the problems of service provision in poor urban settings through the eyes of poor consumers and the professionals that more commonly work with them. Likewise, social sciences professionals are better able to understand engineering parameters. The result is a cost-effective and relatively rapid process that helps engineers to design relevant engineering solutions with more chance of sustainability. Experiences in Zambia, India, Kenya and Uganda are illustrated

Topics: Developing countries, Municipal & public service engineering, Water supply
Publisher: © Institution of Civil Engineers
Year: 2005
DOI identifier: 10.1680/muen.2005.158.3.223
OAI identifier:

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