BH invests less than the national average in basic sanitation

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While the average investment in basic sanitation per resident among the 100 most populous cities in Brazil is R$138.68, the rate in the capital of Minas Gerais is just R$56.73 per capita. The data comes from the latest survey by Instituto Trata Brasil, released at the end of March.

The survey also indicated that, despite being one of the largest economies in the country, Belo Horizonte occupies the 42nd position in the ranking of water service and sewage treatment. Until 2022, the municipality, which is the most populous in Minas Gerais, occupied 37th position on the list. It fell to 47th last year and, this year, it had a positive change of just five positions.

For Rodrigo Lemos, geographer and professor of environmental planning and water resources at the Universidade Estadual Paulista (Unesp), the two indices are linked.

“Since 2015, we have seen a decrease in the sanitation structure and investment. Furthermore, models have been replicated that have not helped to create more resilient and sensitive cities, increasing people’s exclusion and hindering the effectiveness of citizenship”, assesses Lemos.

“It is important to reflect that, in order to have development, there must be investment. And it is quite contradictory, when we realize that there was a decrease in investment, while Copasa had record profits. The account doesn’t close”, he adds.

Private management of Copasa

Companhia de Saneamento de Minas Gerais (Copasa) is a public company with mixed capital, that is, it has private capital participation. Copasa is mainly responsible for water supply, sanitation and sewage treatment in the municipalities of the Metropolitan Region of Belo Horizonte (RMBH). In 2023, the company had a net profit of R$355.2 million, in the fourth quarter of the year alone, which represents an increase of 32.4% compared to the same period of the previous year.

Right at the beginning of his first administration, governor Romeu Zema (Novo) announced his interest in selling the company. Since then, Copasa workers have denounced a process of dismantling the state-owned company and distributing dividends primarily to remunerate shareholders.

“This distribution has been practiced with great force under the Zema government. This money could be invested in basic sanitation, but it is going into the pockets of shareholders”, said Eduardo Pereira, president of the Union of Workers in the Water Purification and Distribution Industries and Sewage Services of the State of Minas Gerais (Sindágua-MG ), to Brasil de Fato MG, at the end of last year.

Remember: Copasa workers protest against the distribution of R$372 million to shareholders ::

Investing in sanitation is investing in health

The Trata Brasil survey also indicated that, in the country, there are 90 million people without access to sewage collection. In Minas Gerais, a study by the Panorama Estadual de Saneamento Básico (Pesb-MG) showed that, by mid-2023, 46.3% of waste is not treated by sanitation companies and 2.6 million people live in regions of the state that do not have sewage collection.

Access to basic sanitation and water is recognized by the United Nations (UN) as a fundamental human right and “an essential condition for the full enjoyment of life and other human rights”.

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Rodrigo Lemos highlights that, in addition to sewage, basic sanitation brings together a set of other actions and services, such as waste management, drainage actions and rainwater management.

“It dialogues directly with public health and is a fundamental basis for people to be able to reproduce their lives. Investing in sanitation is, first and foremost, investing in health. We could have advanced much further, but we have a structural problem, because when sanitation is subordinated to market logic, it is not fully effective”, he concludes.

Editing: Leonardo Fernandes

The article is in Portuguese

Tags: invests national average basic sanitation

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