IWRA World Water Congress 2008 Montpellier France
4. Development of Water Resources and Infrastructure
water informal economy, small-scale water
providers, peri-urban territories, water needs, unreliable water supply
AbstractThis paper addresses the issue of water informal economy in the peri-urban areas of Mumbai. The term
“informal economy” refers to all the types of water suppliers who are not operating in the legal framework of water
management in a given area. They are usually small-scale private providers, who are alternatives to legal operators,
such as municipalities or authorized private operators.
Peri-urban areas are undergoing a rapid transformation in
the form of economic development, urbanization, demographic changes, all of which have implications on the
demand and supply of water. Current water policies are not able to adapt to these rapid transformations and
informal providers fill in the supply-demand gap. Access to water is not satisfactory, be it supplied by a large
distribution network, or by private operators using alternative means.
Until now, despite the large number of
studies pertaining to small-scale water providers in developing countries’ big cities, little work has been done to
identify and analyse the ability of these operators.
• To understand why small-scale water
providers have appeared in peri-urban areas, what type of service they provide and why they have succeeded in
doing so, where municipalities have failed.
• To examine to what extent small-scale water providers’ activities are
sustainable and whether they constitute a temporary or permanent phenomenon in these territories.
examine whether we are heading towards new forms of urban governance, where informal actors no longer compete
with each other, but cooperate with public utilities and emerge as an extension of the public
This research paper is based on fieldwork carried out in the peri-urban areas of
Mumbai in 2005. The study consisted in a household survey in access to water and household preferences in the
choice of water providers and in interviews with public utilities’ representatives and informal operators.
• Small scale water providers’ activities have expanded in response to local conditions and
social, institutional, political and legislative constraints.
• There is a strong relation between the type of settlement,
household income and informal access to water.
• The current trend is an increased
“informalisation” of water supply. Small scale water providers are no more a marginal solution in access to water but
they appear with NGOs as an alternative, a diversified solution in urban areas.
• The lack of sufficient water
supply leads to a generalization of water poverty in peri-urban territories. The combination of various sources of
water does not guarantee the satisfaction of household demand.