Households' Coping Strategies with Unsatisfactory Urban Services in a Planned City of Developing Countries: A Case Study of Abuja, Nigeria
Provision of basic urban services, such as potable water, sanitation and refuse collection is vital and instrumental to health and economic well being of any society. However, the delivery of adequate urban services in the cities of developing countries has not been successful due to a myriad of challenges including rapid urbanization, limited resources, urban poverty, informality, slums and squatter settlements, in addition to other socioeconomic and political forces. While numerous studies have documented the inability of the cities to provide adequate services, very few have explored how residents of the cities cope with the problems in service delivery. Using Abuja as a case study where data was collected through semi-structured interviews with 60 households, observation and review of documents, this dissertation conveys respondents' experience with the delivery of water, refuse collection and sanitation services. Second, the study explores household's coping strategies with unsatisfactory delivery of the services according to the Exit, Voice, Loyalty and Neglect (EVLN) model being the most dominant in the literature. Third, it evaluates the efficacy of the strategies. Fourth, it investigates the factors that influence the choice and efficacy of the coping strategies and lastly, it analyzes the sequences in the choices of the strategies. The study concludes that the centralized public sector approach is ineffective in providing adequate urban services in the city. As a result, informal alternatives such as getting water from vendors, boreholes, local wells, public buildings, rivers and rainfall and garbage disposal by self or informal collectors and septic system were devised for coping with poor urban services. Similarly, informal artisans like plumbers and masons were increasingly utilized for solving problems with service infrastructure and facilities rather than contacting utility officials. These coping strategies are mostly unsafe, costly and inconvenient to households, more especially children. However, this research found no evidence of residential relocation (Tiebout-exit) due to refuse collection problems but some renters expressed their intention to relocate due to severe water and sanitation problems. A few gated communities changed private refuse collectors and some households decided not to connect to public sewer but remain with their private septic system. Complaints to utility agencies by residents' associations were highly effective in getting service-related problems solved but it was less effective by groups of neighbors, while individual households often receive little or no responses from the agencies. The face-to-face mode of voice was found to be more effective than telephone calls or writing letters. Loyalty to the utility agencies was a result of improvement on service delivery or by comparing service performance with other cities. Refuse collection problems were often neglected, but problems with water and sanitation services were neglected only for temporary problems or those located away from homes. This study also deepens our understanding of the variety of factors that influence the choice and efficacy of the response strategies. Factors that are most relevant to this study are necessity of the services, health concerns and cost of employing the strategies. While housing and neighborhood conditions and inefficiency of the public sector recorded moderate level of influence, socio-cultural factors and city planning regulations are least important in determining the choice and efficacy of coping strategies. This dissertation reiterates the need to recognize quasi-exit as an independent form of exit and the most dominant strategy for coping with poor public services in the Third World. It also concludes that the existing EVLN model is deficient in explaining user response to publicly-provided services in the developing countries and as such, proposes modifying it by adding a new dimension, called "investment", to represent resources invested in improving the efficacy of the EVLN strategies used to cope with unsatisfactory provision of necessary public services like water and sanitation. Moreover, this study suggests that the modified EVLN model can be used as a tool for monitoring the performance of public services by utilities agencies. The research also informs planning practice by making policy recommendations to improve the effectiveness of the existing coping strategies. It also calls for establishing residents associations at districts as a means of improving service performance through collective action and proposes other ways of enhancing the delivery of basic public services in Abuja and other cities of developing countries
Abuja, Nigeria, Exit, Voice, Loyalty and Neglect strategies, piped/tap water, refuse/garbage collection, sanitation/sewer, urban/public services
August 16, 2012.
A Dissertation submitted to the Department of Urban and Regional Planning in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Includes bibliographical references.
Petra L. Doan, Professor Directing Dissertation; Timothy S. Chapin, Committee Member; Ralph S. Brower, University Representative.
Florida State University
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