UN-HABITAT Executive Director Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka on Sunday launched the agency's second Global Report on Water and Sanitation with a warning that the projected increase of urban dwellers will have far reaching implications on water and sanitation provision and efforts must be stepped up to meet this challenge.
Launching the book at the ongoing 4th World Water Forum in Mexico City, Mrs. Tibaijuka said the report entitled, Meeting the development goals in small urban centres? was crucial in addressing water and sanitation needs especially in small urban centres.
"A startling new statistic to come out of this report, is that the largest share of future urban growth will be from small urban centres of less than half a million people where service provision for both water and sanitation is already woefully inadequate", she said.
UN-HABITAT's own research shows that within three decades, the urban population in Asia, Africa and Latin America will double to nearly 4 billion people and that by 2015, the target date for most of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), well over half of the world?s population will be urban.
Turning to aid assistance, Mrs. Tibaijuka said small urban centres tend to be overlooked saying that in 2003, the OECD funding in the water sector amounted to US $3 billion in Official Development Assistance, of which only 13% was allocated to small urban centres. "This situation is all the more critical if we consider that small urban centres are the first tier markets and service providers for rural enterprise and development. Clearly, attaining the MDGs overall will depend to a large extent on how we can strengthen the prospects of local economic development and improve the living and working conditions of small towns and cities which, in turn, depend on access to clean water and improved sanitation", she said.
Mrs. Tibaijuka said the publication had a pivotal role to play in global and local thinking on service provision, and a critical contribution to the road map to meeting the MDGs.
Citing the example of Kyotera, in Uganda, Musoma in Tanzania Ponani in India the Executive Director said they suffered rapid increase in population without increased water and sanitation provision. ?There are countless other towns with such characteristics across the globe. We cannot shun away from the challenges of water and sanitation provision in these small centres. We often assume that because of economies of scale and the capacity of public institutions, larger cities offer better return on investment in water and sanitation provision,? she said.
However, according to Mrs. Tibaijuka, this was not necessarily so. Small urban centres offer a more socially cohesive environment and different levels of efficiency and that as the report highlights, neighbourhood or 'condominium' approaches to water and sanitation are not only possible in smaller towns and cities, but can also be highly cost effective.