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Indian cities, sanitation and the state

Environment and Urbanization, April 2011

Indian cities, sanitation and the state: the politics of the failure to provide

Susan E Chaplin, School of Public Health, La Trobe University, Melbourne VIC 3086, Australia, s.chaplin@latrobe.edu.au

The environmental problems confronting Indian cities today have arisen because millions of people have been forced to live in illegal settlements that lack adequate sanitation and other basic urban services. This is the result of two factors. The first is the legacy of the colonial city characterized by inequitable access to sanitation services, a failure to manage urban growth and the proliferation of slums, and the inadequate funding of urban governments. The second is the nature of the post-colonial state, which, instead of being an instrument for socioeconomic change, has been dominated by coalitions of interests accommodated by the use of public funds to provide private goods.

This has enabled the middle class to monopolize what sanitation services the state has provided because the urban poor, despite their political participation, have not been able to exert sufficient pressure to force governments to effectively implement policies designed to improve their living conditions. The consequence is that public health and environmental policies have frequently become exercises in crisis intervention rather than preventive measures that benefit the health and well-being of the whole urban population.

Categories: India
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