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Symposium 2011

Proposal - Reducing the Water and Waste Footprints of Megacities

The Challenge

The United Nations estimates that the number of megacities with a population of more than 10 million will triple from 20 in 2003 to 61 in 2015. It is estimated that more than nine tenths of urban grow ...

The United Nations estimates that the number of megacities with a population of more than 10 million will triple from 20 in 2003 to 61 in 2015. It is estimated that more than nine tenths of urban growth will occur in developing nations, with four fifths of urban growth occurring in Asia and Africa.

Solution strategies to reduce the waste and water footprints of megacities:

  • It is important to apply tailor-made solutions that take local characteristics, such as a large informal sector into account.
  • Issues like health and environment which are closely related to waste and water footprints and should be linked both at an institutional level for improved planning and at the actual implementation level.
  • A public sector reform is one of the most important strategies for sustaining water and waste coverage and service. These reforms should also consider the need to extend waste and water services to informal urban settlements.
  • It is crucial to involve many affected stakeholders. In the case of waste management, a key to make use of waste for reuse or recycling is to promote segregation, e.g. by doorstep sorting of waste.
  • Leaders in the water sector need to ensure that decision-makers outside the water sector know the constraints and options for water resources and help them implement their decisions efficiently and effectively.
  • It needs to be ensured that investments in new water sourcing for megacities do not adversely impact the water needs of other groups or sectors.
  • Financing water and waste sectors should not be based on a single financial source.
  • Fees for households can and should be levied, but have to be affordable.
  • For the waste management sector, an effective institutional setting must discourage illegal disposal as an alternative to a fee system.
  • It is crucial to foster a culture of long-term planning that seriously takes implications for sustainable environmental management into account and that abolishes short-term profit making.
  • To meet this challenge, education will play an important role in the long term to raise awareness to provoke behavioural change.

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