Thursday, February 12, 2009

Every improvement has a consequence down the line

Our polio epidemics of the 20th century were a result of good sanitation--the flush toilet. Here’s one I wouldn’t have thought of--clean water increases poor sanitation.
    "Clean Water Makes You Dirty: Water Supply and Sanitation Behavior in the Philippines"
    Daniel Bennett, Assistant Professor, Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago
    June 12, 2008

    Improving the water supply is a common policy response to endemic diarrhea in developing countries. However, water supply interventions may inadvertently worsen community sanitation by mitigating the consequences of unsanitary behavior. Since sanitation has large health externalities, the impact of declining sanitation may overwhelm the benefit of receiving clean water. This paper shows how the expansion of municipal piped water in Metro Cebu, the Philippines has exacerbated public defecation and garbage disposal. According to estimates, a neighborhood’s complete adoption of piped water increases public defecation and garbage by 15-30 percent.
I think there’s a message here for us, but I’ll have to think about what it is. Something like "it’s not my problem any more," or “now the government will take care of me so I can do anything I want.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

More likely its AIDS. Now that the drugs are available, the risky behavior is booming. For the first time since the late 1980s, HIV infection rates are rising among gay men in the US and across the developed world. They know they can get the drugs so why be careful.