This case focuses on water systems planning in the city of Lagos, Nigeria. It highlights trends in infrastructure systems privatization and the responses of community groups, multinational organizations, state, and local governments. Placing themselves in the shoes of a World Bank planner, students must determine if public, private or some combined approach can best address long-standing issues with the right to water for the urban poor.

Planning Topics

water systems planning, infrastructure planning, public private partnerships, governance, privatization, policy implementation, program evaluation, basic services provision

Learning Objectives

  1. Appreciate the diverse and often competing interests in urban infrastructure projects.
  2. Understand the major policy approaches that have been advanced to improve urban water supply for the poor and the inadequacies of these approaches for addressing complexities of insecure tenure and informal urbanism.
  3. Consider moral arguments about the right to water and willingness to pay.
  4. Similarly, weigh benefits like cost recovery and better service delivery against social and political costs of unaffordability, inequity, and exclusion.
  5. Describe the different approaches cities might take to improving access to water, from cross-subsidies to metering to integrating the informal sector.
  6. Recognize the importance of external funding for major infrastructure projects and the interests that accompany them.

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Suggested Readings

  1. Beall, J, Crankshaw, O and S Parnell. (2000). Victims, villians and fixers: The urban environment and Johannesburgs’ poor. Journal of Southern African Studies, 26(4): 833-855. Read the abstract
  2. Specter, M (2006). The Last Drop: Confronting the possibility of a global catastrophe. The New Yorker, October 23rd. Download the full paper
  3. Bakker, K. (2007). The “commons” verses the “commodity”: Alter-globalization, anti-privatization and the human right to water in the Global south. Antipode, 430-455. Download the full paper