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Access to Services for Poor People in Urban Areas

  • Year: 2008
  • Organisation: TIPS
  • Publication Author(s): CSIR For Urban LandMark

This report provides an analytical reflection on the provision of infrastructure services in urban areas, with the aim of enhancing the access of the poor in urban areas to these services. It commences by considering what is meant by “access” to services, pointing out that much more is involved than simply providing services in physical proximity to the intended users of those services.

The report summarises principles that must underlie the provision of infrastructure services in urban areas for all in society and in the economy, especially the urban poor. Infrastructure is only a means to an end. Specific characteristics of the community to be served are all-important in making decisions on infrastructure. Also, selection of infrastructure (specifically levels of service) and its planning and design is wittingly or (often) unwittingly made in the context of a set of planning, design, construction, operation, maintenance and upgrading assumptions. The validity of those assumptions needs to be investigated - and, if it is found that they are not valid, then those selection decisions need to be reviewed.

Understanding of this is essential in:

• Addressing the end (enhancing the access of the poor to services in urban areas) by the most appropriate means (which may not be an engineering service, but could be by education, or an institutional means);

• Integrating the service with other means to the same end; and

• Selecting levels of service and standards.

The bulk of this report is devoted to a discussion of the three ways that “the poor” in urban areas and “urban services” interface. These three ways are as follows:

The poor get services. Their quality of life is thereby raised. In addition, the availability of these services opens up possibilities for earning income.

The poor getting services directly raises their quality of life. But the services could also (dependent on the peoples’ initiative and other factors as well) enable them to generate income in the short term (in the sense that they can do work, and get paid for it, because they now have water or electricity) and in the future (because they now have electricity to study and so on, and can improve their ability to get jobs, or to get better jobs). Issues of the quality and reliability of services, and ways in which the poor can or cannot cope if services are of poor quality and/or are unreliable, are best discussed under this heading.

The poor get income. This better enables them to get services.

The poor can obtain more services if their income rises or if the cost of services falls. Incomes rising relative to the cost of services gives households greater ability to purchase what they need -- which could include more or better quality services.

Issues of the cost of services are discussed under this heading.

The poor get income from playing a part in the service provision chain.

The poor earn income through building, operating or maintaining the infrastructure, or through selling the service.

Each of these three types of interface needs its own approach, drivers, incentives, 6 facilitators, etc. Nonetheless, they cross-cut: each in some or all other ways affects the other. For example a particular change in technology might be able to both improve reliability (and therefore improve income generation potential) and reduce cost.

The report concludes with a comment about quick wins (in individual situations there is much scope for these, but there are no broad-based (i.e. with national impact) quick wins to be had), and recommendations.