About UNEP UNEP Offices News Centre Publications Events Awards Milestones UNEP Store
GEO-3: GLOBAL ENVIRONMENT OUTLOOK  
UNEP Website GEO Home Page

Waste services, water supply and sanitation

The volume of solid waste generated in urban areas is increasing with the growing population, higher consumption levels and the use of more packaging in the retail industry. Rates of waste generation are outstripping the capacities of local authorities to collect, treat and dispose of waste. Across Africa, only 31 per cent of solid wastes in urban areas are collected (UNCHS 2001b). Inadequate urban infrastructure leads to untreated waste and waste remaining uncollected or improperly disposed of. In Accra, for example, although there is a system of collection from waste points in most residential areas, collection is erratic and legal intermediary dumps overflow (McGranahan and others 2001). Burning of solid waste is common in many countries but the toxic fumes thus released contribute to air pollution. Only 2 per cent of African waste is recovered and recycled (UNCHS 2001b) due to lack of economic incentives and markets for recycled materials. The most commonly recycled materials are paper, textiles, glass, plastic and metal. Composting is carried out to some extent in Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia.

The use of traditional fuels in dense informal settlements is leading to damaging levels of air pollution, particularly harmful to children

Source: UNEP, Dilmar Cavalher, Topham Picturepoint

Urban population (millions) with and without improved water and sanitation: Africa

Some 85 per cent of urban Africans now have improved water and sanitation

Source: WHO and UNICEF 2000

The proliferation of unplanned settlements in the urban areas of Africa has been accompanied by inadequate provision of potable water and sanitation. On average, 85 per cent of African urban populations had access to improved water sources in the year 2000, although this ranged from 100 per cent in Botswana, Djibouti, Mauritius, Morocco and Namibia, to just 29 per cent in Guinea-Bissau and 31 per cent in Chad (WHO and UNICEF 2000). The average urban population with access to improved sanitation was 84 per cent, ranging from 100 per cent in Mauritius and Morocco to 12 per cent in Rwanda and 14 per cent in Congo (WHO and UNICEF 2000). The numbers of people with these services have increased over the past 10 years (see bar chart) but the percentages have hardly changed.

In order to improve the performance of municipal governments and public utilities, public-private partnerships are being increasingly promoted to provide water management and sanitation services. These partnerships have met with mixed success. While private participation in water supply and sanitation services brings in new investment capital, management and organizational skills, and technical know-how, there is a perceived bias towards meeting the demands of upper and middle-income groups.