A decade after the United Nations (UN) declared access to clean, safe water and basic sanitation a fundamental human right, Brazil distances itself from the possibility of universal service.
This is the perception among social movements within the sector, who are pressuring candidates in municipal elections to treat the issue as a priority on their agenda. They have published a statement of commitments and want adhesion from politicians that are running for city hall and city council positions.
The regional federations of urban planners and the National Federation of Urban planners prepared the document “Basic sanitation and the 2020 elections”, which is comprised of four pillars: making the system universal; combating privatization, strengthening services and the efficiency of public entities, as well as valuing workers.
Each of them brings forth a series of concrete, actionable proposals, in the sense of making municipal administrations responsible for making decisions and ensuring progress on the matter.
"Sanitation is a public policy whose ownership is municipal. What we end up seeing is the sub-contracting of services to state level companies or to the private sector. But the ownership of this service, in fact, belongs to the municipality", explains the sanitation secretary of the National Federation of Urban Workers (FNU), Fábio Giori, in an interview given to the Bem Viver show, which airs on radio Brasil de Fato.
"These elections have everything to do with the matter in such an emblematic year. The same year that we celebrate the tenth year anniversary of the UN declaration, but it is also the year that in which we saw new sanitation legislation approved, which means a setback ", he adds.
The commitment statement demands showing appreciation to municipal employees who work in the sector. Giori points out that in the midst of a pandemic in the country, sanitation, especially access to water, is the main tool in the fight against the proliferation of the virus, since sewage can be a vector of contamination.
"Even during this period, people have had access to sanitation. Workers in the sector have been able to guarantee the service. Without them, sanitation will not be available to society," Giori points out.
The new basic sanitation legal framework facilitates the privatization of services and extinguishes the contract model between municipalities and state owned water and sewage companies. The statement of commitments suggests initiatives aimed at diminishing the setbacks the current legislation represents.
Among them is assuring the service is provided directly, through municipalities or municipal public companies, as well as a commitment to the continuity of shared management among state contractors, maintaining the Contract Program for all townships.
Another demand in the document is a call for efforts to include water and sanitation as an essential human right in Municipal Laws, meaning the service can only be privatized after approval by the population, upon holding a referendum and public hearings.
"Only the government can guarantee sanitation services, especially in cities with low demographic density, areas of unplanned habitation, peripheries, slums. Only government owned companies are able to cope with the demand, since a private company seeks profit, and in these locations profit will not be achieved ", emphasizes Giori.
For these social movements, strengthening the role of municipalities in basic sanitation policies must be understood as an essential point. Candidates must commit to the elaboration and implementation of municipal plans, and encourage the participation of the population, as well as exercise social control over these policies.
According to Fábio Giori, it is necessary to seek "modernization of management, mainly in combating losses and making the service cheaper".
"It is important that we manage to do much more for less, in view of the crisis that we have been going through," he concludes.
Edited by: Leandro Melito