Institutions for urban poor's access to ecosystem services: A comparison of green and water structures in Bangladesh and Tanzania
Bangladesh and Tanzania are two rapidly urbanising, least-developed countries, with their populations living in low-income settlements relying on two key ecosystems for essential services: urban green and water structures.
These provide shelter, fuel, food, safe drinking water, drainage, and flood/pollution prevention. However, they are also the source of 'disservices' such as harmful bacteria which can lead to chronic ill-health.
In these low-income countries where state authority is weak, co-production (providing public services through collaboration between state agencies and citizen groups) and community collective action can together serve as building blocks for institutional effectiveness.
This project focused on Dhaka (Bangladesh) and Dar es Salaam (Tanzania), to identify policy-relevant design principles and operational practices needed to produce ecosystem services which promote sustainable improvements in the wellbeing of the urban poor. The similarities between these two cities enabled findings to be generalised, while their contrasts allowed the development of a robust conceptual framework and an opprtunity to test emerging hypotheses.
The project adopted a multi-disciplinary, multi-context approach, bringing together a team of leading Bangladeshi, Tanzanian and UK researchers, and it trained and engaged 20 promising young Bangladeshi and Tanzanian researchers.
Amongst a range of findings, the project's research made it clear that the potential benefits of improved water supply are severely compromised by faecal contamination at a critical zone around the point of use inside slums - 'the last 100 metres'. It is vital that firstly, the localised sources of contaminants are properly managed (e.g. mending leaking toilets, achieving full containment and safe removal of faecal wastes, and desisting from open defecation), and secondly that the integrity of community-based water dispensing facilities (e.g. underground reservoir and handpumps) is assured. A key criterion for the success of this work is the training of community-based Water, Sanitation and Hygiene engineers to support activities 'on the ground'.
There is no 'quick fix', rather a concerted and sutainable set of actions are required to prevent faecal contamination within slum communities.