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|Water, politics and the persistence of uneven development in the Zambian Copperbelt
|Improving African water and sanitation has been a central objective of international development policy for many years. Alongside high profile awareness campaigns and global initiatives such as the Millennium Development Goals, there have been fundamental transformations to African water and sanitation governance since the early 1990s. World Bank and International Monetary Fund structural adjustment policies have led to the adoption of neoliberal water reforms across large parts of the developing world, especially in urban regions of Africa. However, it is only in the last few years that the extent of the social, economic and political impacts of these reforms have begun to become apparent. An investigation has been made of the impacts of recent ly-adopted neoliberal reforms on water and sanitation development in an urban region of Zambia called the Copperbelt Province. Postcolonial theory and interdisciplinary approaches have been used to develop an analysis of neoliberal water policy impacts on: (1) provision of water supply and sanitation; (ii) the politics of development; and (iii) the history of uneven development in the Copperbelt. A critical analysis of neoliberal water and sanitation development reveals that, while the reforms have prompted greater conservation of water, there is continued water and sanitation poverty and widening inequality between the minority water-rich and majority water-poor populations. Also, scrutiny of the politics of water and sanitation development in the Copperbelt reveals that power is concentrated in the hands of a number of visible and less visible non-state actors, most notably the World Bank. These non-state actors are shown to have a considerable influence over decisions regarding the future of Copperbelt water governance. Analysis of neoliberal policies in relation to the history of development revealed the persistence of three key elements of uneven development: water and sanitation inequality; political marginalisation of the urban poor; and uneven power relations between Zambian and non-Zambian development actors. The resilience of these three dimensions of uneven development can be traced back to the policies and practices of British colonial water governance. A number of contributions to knowledge in this field of study have been made. This is one of the first analyses of the impacts of neoliberal water and sanitation development in Africa. It is also one of the first attempts to apply postcolonial theory to the study of an important material issue such as water and sanitation. It has given rise to serious questions over the applicability of neoliberal water reforms in urban Africa. It is concluded that policy makers need to consider the embedded, spatially inscribed, material inequalities that characterise many former European colonies in Africa, such as Zambia.
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|School of Geography, Politics and Sociology
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