- Research project
- – Western Pacific
Full research title: Participatory and integrated planning processes in urban informal settlements and areas of new housing growth to improve the resilience of water, sanitation and hygiene service delivery to climate change and future population changes in Pacific Island cities.
Duration: January 2022 – September 2022
Melanesia is rapidly urbanising, at between 3-4% per year1. For example, the urban population of Vanuatu is expected to double between 2017 and 20272. In the absence of, or where limited supply of affordable housing exists, much of this urban growth will occur in informal settlements, though there are some examples of identified areas of housing growth, such as in Luganville, Vanuatu. Informal settlements are defined by the United Nations as lacking secure land or housing tenure, generally non-compliant with planning and land use regulations, often on marginal or hazardous land, and lacking access to infrastructure and services3.
Past research, including by IWC, has indicated that access to WASH services in urban and peri-urban informal settlements across Melanesia is broadly inadequate4. In addition, there is little evidence to suggest that WASH services that do exist for urban and peri-urban informal settlements are future-proof – they are not planned with resilience to shocks and change in mind, such as climate change or the needs of changing populations within water catchments.
This project, based in urban areas of Vanuatu, Fiji, Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea, all of which have large informal urban and peri-urban settlements, as well as some designated areas of new housing growth, is exploring contextually relevant processes that enable urban WASH planning that improves the resilience of WASH service delivery models to climate change and future population changes. It combines bottom-up and top-down perspectives and information and importantly, link to broader catchment-scale land use. The research is building on recent work integrating spatial analyses of climate and other environmental factors to identifying appropriate and resilient WASH services in informal settlements across Melanesia.
Working with the University of the South Pacific and Solomon Islands National University, this research is combining different types of information to spatially characterise existing and potential WASH service delivery models and their resilience, in settlements and associated markets, and exploring how such geographical visualisation and mapping can be used in collaborative WASH planning processes by governments with their stakeholders. The goal to explore participatory processes that combine mixed data using spatial systems to inform climate resilient planning, is common to all four countries, however research activities and outcomes will be country-specific, in recognition of the exploratory and scoping nature of the research and the contextual diversity across countries and in urban informal settlements.
Our research aims to answer the question:
How can urban planning processes in Melanesia be strengthened through participation and integration to improve the resilience of WASH service delivery in informal settlements and areas identified for housing growth within the urban footprint?
To achieve this we aim to:
This research is intended to be closely partnered with stakeholders from national and town planning departments, WASH departments and water utilities, as well as learning from the experiences of settlement residents. We will codevelop recommendations for integrated and collaborative planning processes for climate-resilient WASH in marginalised urban environments.
The desired longer-term outcomes of this research are to:
The project includes four key components:
Our mixed methods approach to working with informal settlement residents will be participatory and will include household surveys and photovoice techniques alongside structured observations of WASH facilities and services. These will all be used to understand existing WASH services and alternatives, residents’ perceived resilience of those services, and their preferences. All field work and data collection will be led by our partners at the University of the South Pacific in Fiji and Vanuatu. The photovoice process will include sharing the photography of participants (with their consent) with the broader community and key stakeholders. In addition, we will be conducting key informant interviews with government and water utility representatives across planning departments, WASH departments, and regional bodies.
Our spatial analyses will include using innovative automated remote sensing techniques and collation of both quantitative and qualitative information in the spatial domain. These types of characterisations and visualisations across cities and catchments will be intended to help planners and residents conceptualise the linkages between WASH services and whole-of-catchment activities.
Research results will be analysed and synthesised across the four countries. We recognise the research will have different relevance to different users, and as such will be producing specific outputs relevant to in-country stakeholders, community members, and broader practitioner groups.
Research Brief: Investigating the transmission of faecal pathogens in urban informal settlements in and around Port Vila, Vanuatu, recognising biophysical and demographic diversity: https://www.watercentre.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/Sanderson_MIWM_Vanuatu_WASHResearchBrief_V2_.pdf
Research Brief: Investigating the transmission of faecal pathogens in urban informal settlements in and around Port Vila, Vanuatu, recognising biophysical and demographic diversity: https://www.watercentre.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/Sanderson_MIWM_Vanuatu_ResearchBrief_V1_Nov2020.pdf
Project Synopsis: Planning for Climate-resilient Urban WASH in Pacific Islands: https://www.watercentre.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/PlanningforClimateResilientUrbanWASHinPIC_project-outline.pdf
Working Paper for the World Bank: Water and Sanitation Services for Informal Settlements in Honiara, Solomon Islands, by Dr Regina Souter and Pablo Orams: https://documents1.worldbank.org/curated/en/514751574138362122/pdf/Water-and-Sanitation-Services-for-Informal-Settlements-in-Honiara-Solomon-Islands.pdf
R.Souter, Nov 2013
R. Souter, Nov 2018
D.Hearn, May 2015