Society

Private sector the solution for Brazil’s sanitation crisis?

Congress tries to approve a new framework opening up the sanitation sector to private competitors. That could boost investments and lift millions from medieval-like living conditions.
Open sewer going straight to Florianópolis beach. Photo: Helissa Grundemann

The Lagos microregion to the northeast of Rio de Janeiro is a picture-postcard place filled with idyllic beaches that have earned it the nickname of “the Brazilian Caribbean.” Beyond its natural beauty, however, the region has suffered from a staggering lack of basic sanitation services. Until the 1990s, less than one percent of households had access to a proper sewage system. Things, however, have dramatically changed over the past two decades.

In 1998, the region allowed private companies to operate in the sanitation sector, by way of partnerships with the state’s water company. Thus, the Lagos microregion may represent a...

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