UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Beyond the pipe : participation and alternative water provision in underserved areas of Accra, Ghana Morinville, Cynthia


Drinking water remains inaccessible for approximately 783 million people globally – an increasing portion of whom now live in cities. The incapability of municipal provision systems (both public and private) to adequately supply urban citizens means that for many of them water access is negotiated every day in places nowhere near a tap. Instead, points of access are located beyond the pipe, along informal delivery lines. This thesis aims to evaluate the potential of two alternative modes of provision in urban Accra –participatory water governance offering new points of access in underserved communities and small-scale private service providers producing sachet water. Through an exploration of the flows of water as it leaves the municipal mains, this thesis offers a qualitative account of water access in underserved areas in Accra, Ghana. Specifically, Chapter 2 examines participatory water governance in the form of Local Water Boards established throughout the last decade in several neighbourhoods of Accra. Through a discussion of participation’s limits, the chapter argues that a narrow approach to participation, less attentive to other multi-scalar political and social processes at play, undermines the possibilities to improve water access and foster more inclusive water governance in Accra. Chapter 3 offers an analysis of small-scale private service providers looking at the case of Accra’s flourishing sachet water industry –sachets are 500 ml bags of water manufactured locally and distributed throughout the city. The chapter argues that the sachet industry redefines water production and alters its distribution in Accra in a way unaccounted for by the small-scale private service providers literature. The sachet water industry in Accra alters the physical flows of water as well as the power relation vis-à-vis municipal authorities and as such has significant implications for water governance. This thesis is based on qualitative fieldwork including semi-structured interviews, field and participant observations, water user surveys, and document analysis conducted throughout two field seasons in Accra, Ghana (June to August 2011 and June to September 2012).

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