Social Innovation, Social Alternatives and the Public Intervention: What Do We Really Need to Improve the Future of Water Access in Emerging Contexts?

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 15:15
Location: Hörsaal 34 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Ana Lucia Nogueira de Paiva BRITTO, PROURB-UFRJ, Brazil
Water and sanitation services (WSS) represent a critical sector in the existing capital system. They conceive a basic human need, which each one of modern Social Democracies should grant to their population. On the other hand, especially in emerging and developing countries, WSS are unequally distributed and often commercialized according to market logics, being not universalized. International governmental institutions (ex. IDB, WB) stress the importance of socio-technical innovation for WSS. Notwithstanding, at the local level, in different national contexts, traditional or communitarian models are able to provide water access, even if precarious, to those social groups which are not provided by the public service. Innovation is a fundamental condition of capitalistic system existence and growth, being at the base of competitiveness that drives the liberal market. Though, existing bottom up practices, which also work for free, and are external to market logics, can represent a good alternative to costly large infrastructures. The following paper aims to confront the complex issue of water access, while focusing on a specific emerging context, the town of Queimados in the Rio de Janeiro Metropolitan Region (Brazil). The study presents and discusses partial results of a three years long research project, funded by the European Union Seventh Framework Programme, named DESAFIO. The Queimados case was shaped as a qualitative study and drew upon the content analysis of semi-structured interviews and field-notes collected during a one-year long field research. While defending the potential of informal and communitarian solutions to water access, the study also show the limits and risks related to these precarious systems when the governments are absents. It concludes problematizing the role of this solution as a real alternative to the pubic intervention when the goal is the WSS democratization.