Challenges and solutions for the eradication of sanitation backlogs in the policy context of Free Basic Sanitation
Despite the constitutional obligation for municipalities to provide Free Basic Sanitation (FBSan) services to all, many people living in informal settlements in South Africa are still lacking access to adequate sanitation facilities. This study used qualitative methods to examine challenges and identify solutions for the eradication of sanitation backlogs in informal settlement of South Africa in the policy context of the FBSan. Findings suggest that the disconnection between the policy and its application in practice has created a deep divide between the service providers and consumers as recipients of the services. Consumers’ perceptions and expectations are a major barrier to the acceptance of the sanitation services provided by municipalities, often resulting in violent protests. Service providers face challenges when addressing the disjuncture between what people aspire to and what is possible in providing sanitation services. These findings infer that consumers’ needs, sanitation practices and settlement conditions should be thoroughly examined prior to the selection and deployment of sanitation facilities in informal settlements. Consumers should be engaged and involved in the choice of sanitation technologies and facilities. Such engagement should evolve around various sanitation technologies and facilities applicable to the nature and context of informal settlements, so as to address negative perceptions, attitudes and behavior concerning services provided by municipalities. Addressing challenges related to the eradication of the sanitation backlogs in the policy context of FBSan services needs to be grounded in the clarification of sanitation policy, a deep understanding of consumers’ needs, challenges and practices as well as settlements conditions, coupled with meaningful consumers’ participation at various stages of the decision-making process and coordination amongst institutions involved. Municipalities need to engage all stakeholders (mainly consumers) in order to ensure that the selected infrastructure and service level deployed are consensual. Unless subjective clauses of the FBSan policy are clarified, monitoring, enforcement and accountability mechanisms established and implemented and, consumers are engaged in the decision making processes, the eradication of sanitation backlogs in informal settlements as currently planned may not materialize.
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