COVID-19 and the reform of the sanitation legal framework

COVID-19 and the reform of the sanitation legal framework

By Juliana Jerônimo Smiderle

The pandemic situation of COVID-19 highlights the essentiality and deficit of sanitation services in the country. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), prevention is an essential measure to contain the spread of the virus, and for this the best way is to maintain good hygiene habits, including washing your hands with soap and water frequently. But, how is this possible if there are still Brazilians who do not have access to basic water and sanitation services?

In order to address the obstacles to the development of sanitation, the reform of the sector's legal framework has been discussed for at least two years in the National Congress. Today Bill 4.162 / 2019 awaits a vote in the Senate. It is believed that, if the legal framework had already been updated, the country could be one step ahead to reduce the deficit, as the reform seeks to improve the institutional and regulatory environment to attract more investments to the sector and promote adequate incentives for the expanding access to water and sanitation.

The delay in discussing and approving this agenda is costly, especially for those localities and people who still do not have access to services: 33 million Brazilians without access to the water supply network and 95 million without sewage collection network (SNIS, 2018) . This situation is more critical in the North and Northeast of the country, and in informal and rural areas. In addition, there are no significant advances in coverage indicators over the years.

For comparison, in 2008, 94.7% of the country's urban population had access to the water network and 50.6% to the sewage network. In 2018, the most recent data available, these figures were 92.8% and 60.9%, respectively. In other words, there is evidence that the efforts put in were not sufficient to cope with population growth in urban areas, and sewage services increased by around 1 percentage point, on average, over these 10 years. Although the indicators show a modest advance (in the case of water, a setback), it is worth remembering that in this period there was an increase in the sector's average investment due to the financial contribution through the Growth Acceleration Program (PAC). This shows that the efficiency of these investments was low in order to achieve the expansion of services.

The approval of the new legal framework would be only the first step. The remaining steps are longer, and depend on more time, since it is still necessary to build infrastructure to expand access to services. This requires financial resources, time and institutional capacity to prioritize strategic projects with a greater social impact.

In this context, FGV CERI updated the document “Reformulation of the Sanitation Legal Framework in Brazil” to include the changes that occurred in the discussion of the reform in the last year. The objective of the document developed by the FGV CERI team is to give greater clarity and objectivity to the proposals, highlighting the points that need more attention so that at the end of the reform it is possible to achieve universalization, which is the ultimate goal of amending the law.

Read the full document here.

Follow the normative production related to COVID-19 through the Regulatory Monitor of COVID-19 at FGV CERI.


The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the institutional opinion of FGV.