Achieving the Sustainable Development Goal 06 in Brazil: the universal access to sanitation as a possible mission



Sanitation (which includes national public policies for drinking water, sewage services and waste management) is precarious in Brazil and therefore poses a challenge to a range of actors. Poor sanitation impacts public health, education, the environment, and daily life. Globally, it emits increasing greenhouse gases. Universalization of any major public service appears difficult, if not impossible; however, Brazil’s program to universalize access to electricity proves the opposite, as will be shown in this paper. By describing the successful implementation of electricity for everyone, we show that planned public efforts, coordinated with private initiatives and local communities, have worked, and the same can be achieved for the sanitation sector. An overview of all sectors that touch on sanitation and emissions is also provided, highlighting the challenges and possibilities for infrastructure projects.

Key words:
Solid Waste (SW); water; sewage; sanitation; greenhouse gases; Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)


In Brazil, sanitation - water, sewage and waste - and electricity are provided by public bodies directly or indirectly through public concessions. Regarding sanitation, the North and Northeast regions and all rural areas significantly lack access to this basic service in the 21st century; Brazil is still far from experiencing universal access, mainly for sewage (Albuquerque 2011ALBUQUERQUE GR. 2011. Estruturas de financiamento aplicáveis ao setor de saneamento básico. Saneamento Básico. BNDES Setorial, 34, p. 45-94. Accessed on 20 October, 2017.
, Heller and Castro 2013HELLER L AND CASTRO JE. 2013. Política Pública e Gestão de Serviços de Saneamento. Rio de Janeiro: Editora Fiocruz; Belo Horizonte: Editora UFMG, 567 p. ). In contrast, electricity has had some successful public programs for access and for universalization and presented positive results measured by the 2010 Demographic Census conducted by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE). In 1999, the government launched the National Rural Electrification Program with access targets, called “Electricity for the Countryside”, which was replaced, in 2003, by “Electricity for Everyone”, with universalization goals, both aimed at poor rural populations.

According to official Brazilian figures, presented by the 2000 Census (IBGE 2000, MME-LpT 2011, 2015), more than 9 million Brazilians in the rural area, or more than 2 million families, and more than 1 million Brazilians in the urban area were living then without electricity; that is, more than 10 million people had no access to electricity (Table I).

Access to electricity.

According to the 2010 Census (IBGE 2010a), these numbers had significantly improved and dropped to just over 2 million people in the rural area and less than 400,000 in the urban area (Table I). Moreover, by 2015, the rural electrification program had reached more than 15 million families. On the other hand, the 2010 census pointed out that more than 27 million households were not connected to a drainage or sewer system, meaning that more than 100 million Brazilians and more than 7 million households do not have adequate waste collection (IBGE 2010). While the efforts towards electricity universalization were effective, there were no significant results for sanitation (Table I). According to data presented in this paper, there is a true black-out for this latter case.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, launched in 2015 by the United Nations Organization (UN), aims to transform the world through measurable, and therefore monitorable, goals, targets and indicators for the pursuit of sustainable development. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), subdivided into 169 goals, “seek to build on the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and complete what they did not achieve. They seek to realize the human rights of all and to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls. They are integrated and indivisible and balance the three dimensions of sustainable development: the economic, social and environmental” (United Nations 2015). In fact, differently from the MDGs, the SDGs are a “network of targets”, meaning that each goal is extended through targets that are related to numerous goals and sectors (Blanc 2015BLANC D. 2015. Towards Integration at Last? The Sustainable Development Goals as a Network of Targets Sustainable Development. DESA Working Paper No. 141 ST/ESA/2015/DWP/141. United Nations Press, New York, USA, 19 p. Accessed on 20 July, 2017.
). Planning for development tends to be more integrated and coherent.

Access to drinking water and sanitation, as well as appropriate waste management, addresses primarily SDG 06 (clean water and sanitation), but it is extended to SDG 01 (no poverty), SDG 02 (zero hunger), SDG 03 (good health and well-being), SDG 04 (inclusive and equitable quality education), SDG 10 (reduced inequalities), SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities), SDG 12 (responsible consumption and production), SDG 13 (climate action), and SDG 15 (life on land). Finally, of course, SDG 17 (partnership for the goals) is addressed, as it includes the means to implement all goals (Blanc 2015BLANC D. 2015. Towards Integration at Last? The Sustainable Development Goals as a Network of Targets Sustainable Development. DESA Working Paper No. 141 ST/ESA/2015/DWP/141. United Nations Press, New York, USA, 19 p. Accessed on 20 July, 2017.
). To achieve these objectives, Brazil will have to make significant efforts for some decades to come. In summary, achieving the targets of the SDG 06 will have immediate spillover effects on other goals. These influences could be a theme of other paper as it will not be dealt in the present article. Indeed, the focus on this work is solely on the possible achievement of the SDG 06.


Brazil is divided into five regions: North, Northeast, Southeast, South and Midwest. As shown in Table II, there was a significant increase in the urbanization of the South and Midwest from the 1970s to 2010. The Southeast already presented high levels of urbanization in the late 1950s and early 1970s, which was a period of growth of large metropolises, including São Paulo. The North showed the highest population growth for the period from 1970 to 2010, followed by the Midwest, and both regions showed almost the same population in 2010. The Northeast is the third most populated region in Brazil: its cities are located mainly on the coast, with large population densities and crowded urban centres. While Brazil increased its urban population by 204% overall from 1970 to 2010, the North grew by 517% and the Midwest by 461%. Rapid urban growth in the North and Northeast outstripped public capacity to provide basic services, as will be seen in the indices presented below.

Resident population in Brazil (in thousands).

Analyzing the evolution of the urban and rural population in the country is an important factor in the analysis of the provision of basic services (Table II). In fact, according to Costa and Ribeiro (2013COSTA SS AND RIBEIRO WA. 2013. Dos porões à luz do dia. Um itinerário dos aspectos jurídico-institucionais do saneamento básico no Brasil. In: Heller L and Castro JE (Eds), Política Pública e Gestão de Serviços de Saneamento. Rio de Janeiro: Editora Fiocruz; Belo Horizonte: Editora UFMG, 567 p. ), even if unsteady, the sanitation service was considered an urban service until the middle of the 20th century. In consonance with the authors, there was an evolution regarding the provision of the service when the federal government began to interfere directly in the provision of these services in 1942, with the Special Public Health Service (SESP); later, in 1960, the SESP Foundation, within the Ministry of Health, also started implementing sanitation actions. In the 1940s, the execution of sanitation works passed to the scope of the Ministry of Works and Transport, with the National Department of Sanitation Works. Subsequently, after the creation of the Superintendence of the Development of the Northeast (SUDENE) in 1959, the creation of state bodies for the provision of these services was strengthened, especially after the formation of the National Fund for Sanitation Works (FNOS) in 1962.

The authors emphasize that in the history of public policies for basic sanitation, there was always “a movement to modify subsidy policies to financing policies” and there were changes in partnerships. Initially, these were via federal government with municipalities until the 1940s; then they became federal government partnerships with state companies during the military government.

It was precisely during the military government, with the National Sanitation Plan (PLANASA), operationalized through the National Housing Bank (BNH), that there was the largest federal effort and the most extensive coverage of water supply and sewage services. This, however, favored the richer regions of the South and Southeast, where there was the greatest possibility of amortization of investments through tariffs (Costa and Ribeiro 2013COSTA SS AND RIBEIRO WA. 2013. Dos porões à luz do dia. Um itinerário dos aspectos jurídico-institucionais do saneamento básico no Brasil. In: Heller L and Castro JE (Eds), Política Pública e Gestão de Serviços de Saneamento. Rio de Janeiro: Editora Fiocruz; Belo Horizonte: Editora UFMG, 567 p. ). With the abolition of the BNH in 1986, and with the Federal Constitution of 1988, stemming from the re-democratization of the country, there was an institutional vacuum that followed until Law 11,445/2007 (Brasil 2007), the National Basic Sanitation Law of 2007. The LNSB modified the concept of basic sanitation as follows:

“The public services of basic sanitation involve not only the public services of drinking water supply and sanitary sewage, but also the public services of public cleaning, management of solid waste and also those of urban storm water management…being a duty of the Union…instituting a Federal Basic Sanitation Policy” (Costa and Ribeiro 2013COSTA SS AND RIBEIRO WA. 2013. Dos porões à luz do dia. Um itinerário dos aspectos jurídico-institucionais do saneamento básico no Brasil. In: Heller L and Castro JE (Eds), Política Pública e Gestão de Serviços de Saneamento. Rio de Janeiro: Editora Fiocruz; Belo Horizonte: Editora UFMG, 567 p. ).

In addition, the municipality became the central point of sanitation policy, and it has been the focus of resistance from previously created state-owned enterprises. This fact resulted in major challenges, as listed by Costa and Ribeiro (2013COSTA SS AND RIBEIRO WA. 2013. Dos porões à luz do dia. Um itinerário dos aspectos jurídico-institucionais do saneamento básico no Brasil. In: Heller L and Castro JE (Eds), Política Pública e Gestão de Serviços de Saneamento. Rio de Janeiro: Editora Fiocruz; Belo Horizonte: Editora UFMG, 567 p. ): the difficulty of making the municipality really do the planning, and of ensuring that the local regulation is independent and that social control is indeed a transparent and integrated policy. The creation of the Ministry of Cities in 2003 was fundamental to integrating existing policies and to providing the centrality of the Federal Basic Sanitation Policy within its National Secretariat of Environmental Sanitation (SNSA) (Costa and Ribeiro 2013).

The results of these decades-old centralized policies in the richest and most urban areas of the country can be glimpsed by analyzing the 2013 Municipal Human Development Index (MHDI) published by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) for 5,565 cities (Table III), of which 109 cities are counted in the first 100 rankings. The first place with a MHDI of 0.882 is the city of São Caetano do Sul, in São Paulo, and 10 cities are tied in the first 100 places with a MHDI of 0.784 (five in São Paulo, two in Rio Grande do Sul, two in Santa Catarina and one in in Mato Grosso do Sul). The only city in the Northeast in these first 100 places is Fernando de Noronha, in 76th place, a touristic town with a high level of access control.

MDHI 2013 - first 100 rankings.

According to the same data for 2010, 105 cities were classified in the last 104 places, with an MHDI of 0.519 for the six cities tied for 5,461st place, and with the MHDI of 0.418 for last place, rank number 5,565, Melgaço, Pará, according to Table IV. The Northeast has more cities in the lower positions, with 63.81% of the municipalities in the sample; followed by the North, with 35.24% represented in these placements. The worst MHDIs are from Maranhão (22 cities), Pará (20 cities) and Piauí (19 cities). The Northeast has a total of nine states, and six are represented in the last positions of the MHDI. The North has seven states and five are represented. It can be noted that there is a lack of essential services, and abundant poverty and vulnerability, evidenced in this worst index. It should be noted that the lowest MHDI figures do not include states in the Southeast, the South or the Midwest, while among the top places only one state in the Northeast is represented.

MHDI 2013 - last 104 placements.

This is the Brazilian situation in the 21st century, a country with severe regional imbalances and socioeconomic inequalities, a national MHDI of 0.755 ( PNUD, Ipea and FJP 2013), a population of approximately 205 million inhabitants, and a GDP of approximately US $ 1,845 trillion (Banco Central 2017). It is predominantly an urban country (Table II and V).

Total households (in thousands), % of urban households, total residents (in thousands), and % of urban residents.

This paper aims to describe the evolution of the sanitation indices in Brazil over a ten-year period and to provide suggestions for its universal access, that is to say, recommendations to implementing the SDG 06. The main hypothesis is that universal access to sanitation is only possible via the power of the state, by means of investing, catalysing or obliging investments in this sector, as will be shown by using the successful example of rural electrification. First, the overview and the profile of sanitation, as well as its emissions, will be detailed. Next, the program “Electricity for Everyone” will be described, to show how it achieved the universalization of rural electrification. In conclusion, despite being a challenging task, there is, in fact, the possibility of universal access to sanitation.


The paper consists of qualitative and quantitative analyses of indicators of access to energy and sanitation, in order to provide an overview of the provision of these services, and a qualitative investigation of manuals, laws, reports and governmental releases.

The main sources of data were the National Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE); the Brazilian Association of Public Cleaning and Special Waste Companies (Abrelpe); the Ministry of Cities (MCID); and the Ministry of Science, Technology, Innovation and Communications (MCTIC). Data were collected focusing mainly on a 10-year evolution of statistics, when possible. Some indicators did not present any historical series and were collected in a manner that came as close as possible to a 10-year historical series, as will be detailed. The Brazilian Association of Public Cleaning and Special Waste Companies (Abrelpe) has an annual assessment of solid waste (SW) statistics, so, the authors chose to analyze the ten-year evolution of data (2005 - 2015), but also considered the most up-to-date numbers of Abrelpe (2016).

Sanitation and population data were extracted from IBGE, which holds its main indicators in the database Bank of Statistical Tables (SIDRA). The Population Censuses of 2000 and 2010, and the National Sample Survey of Households (PNAD) were collected from SIDRA. A profile of the Brazilian population (urban and rural) and Access to Energy were retrieved from both Censuses and PNAD. From PNAD the subject categories collected were Water Supply, Sewage Treatment, and Solid Waste Destination.

The National Secretariat of Environmental Sanitation (SNSA), which is an institution under the auspices of the MCID, gathers the National Sanitation Information System (SNIS).The SNIS is a national database that presents aggregated data, disaggregated data and municipal data. Categories explored under this database were access to Water and Sewage Treatment as well as Level of Investments.

GHG emissions were extracted from the SIRENE system, under the MCTIC. Categories explored under this database were the national GHG emission profile for Energy; Industrial Process; Agriculture; Waste; and Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF). For the Waste category (IPCCC 1996), the data were extracted for Effluents and Solid Waste.

The records were exported from each database into a MS Excel File and subsequently placed into single workbooks according to categories of public services provided. Each workbook contained a macro level of aggregation, and the main analyses were provisions of service to the population in absolute and relative terms, which were divided into the following categories: home location (rural or urban), and national region (North, Northeast, South Southeast, and Midwest).

These data were analyzed through two types of comparison: the first one was through the analysis of the factors that impacted each of the indicators developed in this work over time, in a technique known as time series analysis; and the second one occurred through the analysis of various indicators, in a simultaneous comparison of different regions and of housing location (urban/rural), in a technique known as cross-section.

The combination of both techniques allows a holistic and at the same time detailed understanding of all the qualitative factors that have a relevant impact on the indicators in quantitative terms.

Finally, the National Program for Universal Access and Use of Electric Power, known as the “Electricity for All” program, was analyzed in order to extract the possible drivers of its success by means of an in-depth investigation of its special project and operational manuals (MME - LpT 2009, 2011, 2015), official reports (MME - LpT 2007, 2008), governmental data, laws, and official releases.

The purpose of using the “Electricity for All” program as an example is based on a technique choice known as benchmark, where a policy or an activity already implemented serves as a parameter or guide to the development of actions in other segments that have similarities between them. Then the authors suggested possible directions for the universal access to sanitation.


The current section shows data analyses for water and sewage, solid waste, and greenhouse gas emissions. Each subsection will present a quantitative and a qualitative analysis. In considering the following data, it is important to introduce the following population overview.


Sanitation in Brazil is regulated by Law 11,445/07 (Brasil 2007), which, by article 52, establishes the need to prepare a National Plan for Sanitation (Plansab), covering “water supply, sewage, solid waste and rainwater management, with cleaning and inspection of the drainage systems, as well as other sanitation actions of interest for the improvement of environmental health, including the provision of toilets and hydro sanitary units for low-income populations”. Plansab was approved in 2013, establishing guidelines, targets and actions for the years 2014 to 2033 (MCID 2013), with its latest update performed in 2015 (SNIS 2015).

As detailed below, the plan is far from being fulfilled. According to Plansab, it would be expected to achieve “99% coverage rates in drinking-water supply in 20 years, with 100% coverage rates in the urban area, and 92% in sewerage services, with 93% coverage levels in the urban area. In solid waste, Plansab provides for the universalization of urban collection and the absence of open dumps or dumps in the whole country. For rainwater, another goal is to reduce the number of municipalities where flooding or waterlogging occur, in the urban area of 11%”.

The evolution of the national sanitation situation can be verified by the indices of coverage rates for sewerage and water services according to SIDRA and SNIS. According to Table VI, the evolution of access rates to the sewage network shows that its universalization is still very distant for the North region and, to a lesser extent, for the Northeast. Although the North increased the service index for the ten-year period for the total and urban population, the attendance rate in 2015 was still 8.7% for the total population and 11.2% for the urban. Considering that in the North there was the greatest total and urban population increase in recent years, the services did not follow the growth of the number of inhabitants or the expansion of the urban spot (Table II). The volume of sewage treatment generated in the region is low (16.4%), but presents a high percentage of treatment of sewage collected (83.9%).

Evolution of service levels - coverage rates for sewage.

The North presents the lowest investment values when compared to the values of the other regions for the three-historical series (Table VI). It also presents the lowest numbers of sewage connections nationally (Table VII). The Northeast presented a low increase in coverage rates of the total (6.1%) and urban population (6.3%) in the last ten years, as well as the investment volumes and the number of sewage connections; and, there was a decrease in the treatment volume of the sewage collected (-12.9%) and generated (-4%). Nationally, in 2015, only the Southeast presented more than 50% of the properties with access to the sewage network for the total population (77.2%) and, for the urban population, only the Southeast (81.9%) and the Midwest (54.7%) presented more than 50% of coverage level in 2015 (Table VI).

Table VII shows the evolution of extensions connected to the main sewage distribution network. Numbers show more than 2 million inactive connections in 2015. According to SNIS (2015), those inactive connections are the ones that “although registered as users of the services, are not fully operational”. More investments are possibly needed for the maintenance of these facilities.

Evolution of service levels - sewage main connections.

As shown in Table VIII, the worst coverage rates for water supply are again in the North. In 2015, it was the region with the lowest service attendance rate of the total population (56.9%) and the urban population (69.2%). The amounts invested in this region are the lowest nationally as well as the number of connections to the water supply network (Table IX). The largest losses in distribution are also in this region (46.3%), followed by the Northeast in losses (45.7%).

Evolution of service levels - coverage rates for drinking-water.

The South has the best rate of service for the urban population (98.1%) followed by the Midwest (97.4%), both regions of more recent urbanization than the Southeast, which presents a lower urban service, of 96.1%, a lesser index probably because there are areas within the urban area that do not receive basic services, especially in the subnormal clusters scattered around the city (favelas).

Except for the Midwest, all other regions showed a decrease in water loss in the distribution in 10 years (Table VIII). Despite this, all regions present significant losses in distribution, exceeding 30%. This index is important for analyzing the quality of water distribution by indicating quality of management and infrastructure (SNIS 2015). The regions with the greatest financial investment in the water supply network are the Northeast and Southeast regions, which are the regions with the highest number of active water connections (Table IX). Apart from the Southeast, all regions experienced a decrease in the urban population’s service attendance rate in the last ten years, even though they increased the attendance of the total population, probably due to a significant increase in the urban population in all regions and a decrease in the rural population.

Evolution of service levels - drinking-water connections.

Table IX shows the evolution of extensions connected to the main water pipeline. Numbers show more than 5.5 million inactive connections in 2015. As seen in the sewage data, more investments are possibly needed for the maintenance of these facilities.

According to Table X, almost 10 million households do not have access to the water supply system or use other types of water supply. The North presents the worst situation. However, in absolute values, the Northeast is the one with the largest contingent of people without access to the water supply, with almost 12 million people without the service (by cross-calculating Table V by the percentages in Table X). In a ten-year period, there was an improvement in national the coverage level of 3%, from 82% to 85%; which is a residual value, evidencing low investment rates in the sector.

Access to water services.

In Table XI, the classification under “other types” includes cesspools, rivers, ditches, other types not specified, and had no access. In fact, these destinations are not suitable for sewage and, according to Atlas de Saneamento 2011, “far from representing alternative solutions are, rather, confirmation of the unsteadiness of sewage collection in the country” (IBGE 2011).

Access to sewage services.

Another issue to consider is that rainwater drainage is considered as part of the sewage network infrastructure; so even when sewage is directly released into this rainwater system, it is considered under the national index as an appropriate destination. A technical issue regarding this consolidated infrastructure is that the combined sewer system is not usually projected to support the load of the heavy rains (Reda 2006REDA A. 2006. Gestão de qualidade da água em sistema fluvial durante tormenta - Parte I: reconhecendo um problema no sistema de esgoto. In: XIII SIMPEP - Bauru, SP, Brasil, 6 a 8 de novembro de 2006. Accessed on 26 October, 2017.
, MMA 2009), resulting in flooding, cross-contamination, and spread of diseases. On the other hand, there are also systems projected to receive only sewage (separate sewer systems), but these illegally and clandestinely receive effluents from domestic and industrial sources (Dias 2003)

Even with these caveats, in 2015, almost 28 million households did not have access to the sewage network - by considering other types and the usage of septic tank (Table XI). The worst index is again in the North, with 14% of the households covered, but the Northeast has the largest number of households without adequate access.

Usually, the worse indexes, in any region, are recurrent in irregular settlements in urban areas or in pristine areas in rural areas. The proper provision of public services for these locations would have to consider their realities by means of implementing special projects, as will be discussed in this article. The search for regularization of the informal settlements would not be a solution for this problem because the main issue is usually the location per se (top of hills, hard-to-reach places, alleys, and/or violent communities). Moreover, if the government stand still until the settlements are regularized, it will be a never-ending situation. The rural electrification program is a show-case that demonstrated that the solution must fit in with the realities of the country. If the conditions are appropriate, irregular connections of sewage and water must be regularized as efforts of public policies.

In a decade, there was no significant improvement in water supply in rural areas, and the main type of supply is still, in 2015, the artesian well. Considering that the sewerage network and waste management are also incipient in the rural area, artesian wells are in danger of frequent contamination. The main form of water supply in the urban environment is access to the general network; however, it has not yet been universalized even in ten years of providing services to the population, with little variation in the historical series (2.7%). As can be seen in Table XII, the water supply coverage levels for the rural area, for the 2005-2015 historical series, showed an improvement in the coverage of services by 17.7%, but remained below 50% in 2015.

Evolution of the coverage levels of the drinking-water network per household (in percentage and by location).

Corroborating the information from the series of previous indicators, it is concluded that the greatest challenge of sanitation in Brazil is sanitary sewage (Table XIII). According to Table XIII, in 2015, a little more than half of urban properties have access to sanitary sewage networks (68.0%); and in ten years there was only a small improvement in the service coverage area from 56.3% to 68.0%. The urban population still uses, in 2015, precarious forms for its destination (12.4%) despite improvement in the last ten years. Considering that 85% (Table II) of the population is urban (approximately 173.5 million inhabitants), this volume is significant.

Evolution of the coverage levels of the sewage network per household (in percentage and by location).

The worst picture refers to the rural population, in which only 5.4% of the population has access to the sewage network, and most of the sewage is released in inappropriate ways (61.3%). There was an increase in sewage disposal in septic tanks in the rural areas (of 17.5%), remembering also that this sewage is released in natura, that is, without any type of previous treatment (Table XIII).

According to the IBGE, of the 5,570 Brazilian municipalities, 2,495 do not have access to the sewer system (IBGE 2011). Both the water supply and the sewage network and treatment are precarious in Brazil, and have a direct impact on the economy, education, the environment, and health. The unsteady system contributes to the increase of GHG emissions in the country because more methane and other greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere (IPCC 1996).


Waste management is regulated by the National Solid Waste Policy (PNRS), which includes Law 12,305/2010 (Brasil 2010a) and Decree 7,404/2010 (Brasil 2010b). Like the water and sewage sectors, the waste sector is also operationalized by Plansab (MCID 2013), because the plan systematically encompasses sanitation services. According to this Law, article 54 (Brasil 2010a), open dumps should have been closed in 2014, with the possibility of being charged financial penalties due to this environmental crime, as provided by the Law of Environmental Crimes (Law 9,605/1998, art 54). However, this deadline has been subsequently postponed and, still in 2017, “the 3,000 open dumps identified in Brazil affected the lives of 76.5 million people, bringing an economic loss of US$ 1 billion to the public coffers” (ISWA/Abrelpe 2017). Consequently, despite the Laws, the PNRS and the Plansab, the following data describe the evolution of the ten-year indicators as almost unchanged. It should be emphasized that solid waste disposal data are important in quantifying the trajectory of Brazilian GHG emissions for the sector, as poor management of SW means a high level of methane emissions to the atmosphere.

Table XIV shows a slight improvement in the indicators of SW directly collected from households, from 89.7% to 92.8% in ten years. Rural areas have a lower production of waste, but also have the lowest level of waste collected, 27.3%. The North and the Midwest presented the lowest percentage of waste collected in rural properties (18.4% and 16.8%) in 2015 and in a 10-year period (0.7% and 3.0%); whereas the Northeast and the South improved the collection in rural areas (10.1% and 17.1%). Indirect collection and other types of destinations decreased for all the regions and for urban and rural areas, representing an improved situation for the period.

Evolution of the coverage levels of SW collected from households per household (in percentage and by location).

According to Abrelpe, there was an increase in the amount of solid waste (SW) produced and in the SW not collected for all the regions as well as for the country from 2005 to 2015 (Table XV). The Midwest is the region which present the highest increased generation of SW (71%), but the largest producer by far is the Southeast (194,790 tons/per day). The South presented the highest percentage of amount of SW not collected (274%), but the Northeast is the one which had the highest quantity of SW not collected (11,701 tons/per day).

Amounts of solid waste (tons/per day).

From 2005 to 2015, all the regions presented a smaller amount of waste dumped per day except the North, which increased this amount by 4%. In 2015, more than 82,000 tons per day were dumped in inappropriate places in Brazil and multiplying by 26 days of collection per month (Abrelpe 2011), it reaches a total of 25,602,408 per year.

For the 2005 data (Table XV), the category “Controlled Landfill - Open Dump” included solid waste dumping; actions/places include burning or burying in the property; dumping on open land or in public places; throwing in rivers, lakes or sea; or other undeclared/illegal destinations. Whereas for the other historical series the category “Landfill” is the landfills that applied all the international/national rules for an appropriate destination of solid waste, and “Controlled Landfill - Open Dump” included open dumps and controlled landfills, “that do not have the necessary set of systems to protect the environment and public health” (Abrelpe 2006, 2016).

According to Table XVI, the worst situation is in the North and the Northeast as those states present the lowest collection rate of solid waste in properties and the highest inappropriate destination level when measured by households. However, there was a decrease in the coverage level of households that did not have its SW collected.

Solid Waste Collection - coverage rates by households.

Table XVII shows that there is an increased number of municipalities presenting selective collection of SW. However, as observed by Abrelpe (2016), “although the number of municipalities with selective collection activities is significant, it is important to consider that these activities are often summarized in the provision of voluntary delivery points to the population or in the simple formalization of cooperative agreements with garbage collectors to perform the services.”

Number of municipalities with selective collection of SW.

Brazil produced 79.9 million tons of waste in 2015 and 78.3 million in 2016 (Abrelpe 2017), respectively, with a coverage rate of 90.8% and 91%, accounting for 7.3 million tons not collected in 2015 (Abrelpe 2016) and 7 million not collected in 2016 (Abrelpe 2017). There is still a problem in the final disposal of municipal solid waste (MSW), which got worse from 2015 to 2016. In 2015, 58.7% of the waste collected went to landfills, representing a volume of 42.6 million tons. In 2016, 58.4% of the waste collected went to landfills, representing a volume of 41.7 million tons, with 29.7 million tons of waste inappropriately dumped. In 2016, out of a total of 5,570 municipalities, 3,331 dumped their MSW (Abrelpe 2017).


According to the latest assessment report of Plansab (MCID 2015), a matrix of analysis was created so as to classify service levels from 2014 to 2015 under two categories: Appropriate Service Level; and Deficit, which includes Precarious Service Level; and No Service (Table XVIII).

Plansab assessment - categories.

Data collected also from PNAD and SNIS were used to categorize the results of Plansab from 2013 to 2015 (Table XVIII). It can be seen that when considering the quality of the services provided, the indices are worse (Table XIX) than when only considering the access or not to the public service for the water services (Table VIII) and to the appropriate solid waste management (Table XVI). As was analysed in Table VI, the treatment of the sewage collected is higher than the treatment of sewage generated.

Plansab assessment - categories.


Brazil has voluntarily committed itself to reducing GHGs under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This commitment was nationally regulated by Law 12,187/2009 (Brasil 2009), known as the National Policy on Climate Change (PNMC). Although it established sectoral plans to implement policies for GHG mitigations, there is no sectoral plan for waste and sewage. There are only reduction targets considered with industrial processes under the PNMC (Brasil 2009).

The evolution of GHG emissions for the “Waste” sector reflects the “grave absence and precariousness” (IBGE 2011) of public policies in the country in this area. According to Table XIX, the indicators of 2014 demonstrate that the Energy Sector presented its greatest variation in the period of 1990 to 2014 (55.2%). The agricultural sector has occupied third place in Brazil’s emissions since 2012, the year in which the energy sector began to occupy second place. The agricultural sector presents smaller variations than the energy sector, despite the growing agricultural production in the country, which is mainly explained by the constant efficiency gain in the Brazilian agricultural industry.

The biggest drop in emissions has been in the Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) sector, which is directly related to a series of command-and-control regulations, mainly avoiding deforestation in the Amazon. Despite the reduction in the LULUCF emissions, it still contributes 18.1% of the total emissions. Given this weight, a study is necessary to deepen the knowledge of the impacts of agriculture and urbanization on deforestation.

There was a low participation of the Waste sector in total emissions, but a significant increase for the historical series 1990-2014 (41%), which is the largest increase among all sectors (Table XX).

Greenhouse Gas Emissions (in Gg of CO 2 eq GWP-AR2).

Table XXI shows the consolidated GHG emissions for the Waste sector subdivided according to the IPCC Guidelines (IPCC 1996). The Solid Waste Disposal (SWD) sector is the largest source, accounting for 52% in 2014. The precariousness of the population’s housing infrastructure is reflected in these emissions, in which 42.7% of the sewage is treated and only 50.3% of the population is served with an appropriate sewer system in 2015 (Table VI). In addition, more than 40% of the waste is dumped (Table XVI).

GHG from Waste (in Gg of CO 2 eq GWP-AR2).


Sanitation is a major Brazilian challenge, and new infrastructure is predominantly dependent on public investments, and on partial or full concessions (Brasil 2007). Sanitation data show that over a period of ten years the situation did not evolve significantly in most regions of Brazil, mainly in the poorest regions of the country: in the North, where most indexes regressed, and in the Northeast, with the largest underserved residents.

According to the World Health Organization (2008), each “$1 investment in sanitation will give a return of $9”. It is so important that the universal access to water and sanitation is an international commitment under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), and SDG 06, “Clean water and Sanitation for all”, aims at ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by means of achieving the following targets (United Nations 2015):

6.1. By 2030, achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all;

6.2. By 2030, achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations;

6.3. By 2030, improve water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimizing release of hazardous chemicals and materials, halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and substantially increasing recycling and safe reuse globally;

6.4. By 2030, substantially increase water-use efficiency across all sectors and ensure sustainable withdrawals and supply of freshwater to address water scarcity and substantially reduce the number of people suffering from water scarcity;

6.5. By 2030, implement integrated water resources management at all levels, including through transboundary cooperation as appropriate;

6.6. By 2020, protect and restore water-related ecosystems, including mountains, forests, wetlands, rivers, aquifers and lakes;

6.a. By 2030, expand international cooperation and capacity-building support to developing countries in water- and sanitation-related activities and programmes, including water harvesting, desalination, water efficiency, wastewater treatment, recycling and reuse technologies;

6.b. Support and strengthen the participation of local communities in improving water and sanitation management.

On the other hand, as presented throughout this paper, Brazil is already near to accomplishing SDG 07 (Table I): “affordable and clean energy”, which aims at ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all by means of the following targets:

7.1. By 2030, ensure universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services;

7.2. By 2030, increase substantially the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix; 7.3. By 2030, double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency;

7.a. By 2030, enhance international cooperation to facilitate access to clean energy research and technology, including renewable energy, energy efficiency and advanced and cleaner fossil-fuel technology, and promote investment in energy infrastructure and clean energy technology;

7.b. By 2030, expand infrastructure and upgrade technology for supplying modern and sustainable energy services for all in developing countries, in particular least developed countries, small island developing States, and land-locked developing countries, in accordance with their respective programmes of support.

Rural electrification had been the main bottleneck in the universalization of this service for years because rural properties are distant and hard-to-reach, and rural dwellers usually do not have financial resources to pay for the infrastructure needed. Like the sanitation services, electricity is also a public service in Brazil, which is provided by the governments or utility companies. Analysing the history and implementation of the successful program “Electricity for Everyone” (LpT), a federal rural electrification program, will bring new insights to sectoral efforts to universalize sanitation.

The main assumption of this article is that the example demonstrated by the success of universalization of rural electrification shows that there is no universalization of a public service without the strength of the State. For the universalization of sanitation, the same driver applies. In fact, as Heller and Castro argue (2013HELLER L AND CASTRO JE. 2013. Política Pública e Gestão de Serviços de Saneamento. Rio de Janeiro: Editora Fiocruz; Belo Horizonte: Editora UFMG, 567 p. ), sanitation is a citizen’s right and a State’s duty according to the principles of universality and equity in which, according to the authors:

“Every citizen, regardless of his or her social class, gender, ethnic origin or any other factor of social differentiation, has an unrestricted right to goods and services deemed essential to the maintenance of life in a civilized society... Access to essential services is a fundamental right, which cannot be subject to the individual ability of users to pay and must be guaranteed by the State.”

The purpose of this discussion is to analyze the processes carried out by the State that brought about the universal access to electricity, which can serve as a benchmark for the universal access to sanitation.

One of the major differences between the universal access to electricity and to sanitation is that there is rarely a lack of access to energy services in urban areas. Even in the most deprived areas, electricity wires can reach properties as they are pulled from the nearby infrastructure. The problem of access to energy is primarily in the rural environment. Sanitation demands more complex works or logistics, thus afflicting rural and urban areas. Consequently, as the sanitation infrastructure does not reach deprived urban communities, sewage is thrown in nearby waters, waste is dumped on the slopes of hills and water is taken physically by its residents to their homes.

According to the 2010 Census (IBGE 2010a), there are 3,224,529 permanent households, with more than 11 million inhabitants, located in these poor communities, the so-called “subnormal clusters” (slums, “favelas”, poor communities, villages, among others), characterized by extreme shortages in the provision of public services (IBGE 2010b).

For many years, there was a huge shortage of electricity in the rural areas of the country. The 2000 Census reported almost 11 million people without energy (Table I). In addition to the huge contingent of families without access to electricity in about 4.8 million agricultural establishments, 2.9 million had not yet been electrified according to the 1995/96 agricultural census (Pertusier et al. 2002PERTUSIER F, GUSMÃO MV, PIRES SH, GIANNIN M, CAMACHO C, PESSOA R, LOREIRO E AND OLIVIERI M. 2002. O Programa de Eletrificação Rural Luz no Campo. In: AGRENER, 2002, 4o Encontro de Energia no Meio Rural. Campinas, São Paulo, Brasil. Accessed on 16 June, 2017.
). However, unlike sanitation services, more than 15 million people have been included in access to energy services in the last 10 years. According to Table XXII, the average national electricity service is 99.7%, with 46,000 inhabitants living in urban areas and 513,000 in rural areas.

Comparative table of public services provided in 2015 for permanent residents.

The number of residents not served by the sewer system is higher in urban areas (more than 57 million) than in rural areas (more than 29 million), mainly in the Northeast, respectively over 21 million and more than 14 million. Nationally, there are more than 100 million people without direct access to a sewage network, considering people using septic tanks.

Besides the underserved sewage services, more than 31 million people do not have access to a water supply network (Tables III and X), and more than 22 million do not have their solid waste collected (Tables VI and X). These numbers are much higher than those that started the electricity universalization program by the 2000 Census (IBGE 2000).

Rural electrification efforts date back a long time, but the most effective ones in Brazil were the “Electricity for the Countryside” (from 1999/2000 to 2003) and “Electricity for Everyone” (from 2003 up to now). “Electricity for the Countryside” had the objective of bringing energy services to 1 million households (or 5 million inhabitants) in four years, beginning in 1999 and being coordinated by the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME). The financial operation of the program was performed by a public-private partnership, making use of a special fund of the electric sector called Global Reversal Reserve (Reserva Global de Reversão - RGR) of US$540 million. The RGR was formed by charges paid by the electric utilities and passed on to consumers, with a complement of US$280 million from the executors and entities of the Union - states and municipalities (Sugimoto 2002SUGIMOTO L. 2002. Luz para os Esquecidos: Um Balanço do Programa que Visa Levar Energia Elétrica a Um Milhão de Domicílios Rurais. Universidade Estadual de Campinas - 11 a 17 de novembro de 2002. Accessed on 16 June, 2017.
). The RGR was created by the Decree 41,019/1957 (Brasil 1957), and it was used for promoting “Electricity for Everyone”, as “for works of improvement and expansion of the electric system, in the areas of power generation, transmission and distribution”; it was administered by Eletrobras until May 2017.

This first significant electrification effort was a partnership between the federal government, electric utilities, rural electrification cooperatives and local governments, with implementation in localities with a HDI of less than 0.500. The main bottleneck to the program was the need for payment of the new facilities by final consumers (Fournier and Penteado 2008FOURNIER AC AND PENTEADO CL. 2008. Eletrificação Rural: Desafios para a Universalização da Energia. In: XII Congresso Brasileiro de Energia. Rio de Janeiro, Brasil, Vol. 1, p. 372 -387. Accessed on 10 July, 2017.
), which either indebted an already poor population or made new connections impossible. However, the most important part of this program is the political decision to bring electricity to the needy population with contractual goals for each electric utility. This is an incredible paradigm shift that was to take energy services only to the richest population (Sugimoto 2002SUGIMOTO L. 2002. Luz para os Esquecidos: Um Balanço do Programa que Visa Levar Energia Elétrica a Um Milhão de Domicílios Rurais. Universidade Estadual de Campinas - 11 a 17 de novembro de 2002. Accessed on 16 June, 2017.

The on-going program, “Electricity for Everyone”, was launched at the end of 2003 and aimed to bring energy to 10 million people; this, according to the 2000 Demographic Census, would universalize its access. The priorities of the program were:

“Communities enrolled in federal social programs, rural settlements, indigenous communities, quilombolas (communities of former slaves’ descendants), communities located in extractive reserves or in areas of electricity generation or transmission of electricity, whose responsibility is not the electric utility provider, in addition to schools, health posts and community water wells. The services of the program are totally free, providing for the installation in homes of up to three points of light (one per room), two sockets, conductors, light-bulbs and other necessary materials” (MME 2010).

By 2015, LpT counted more than 15.6 million people served (MME 2015). Then, the program was extended to serve more than 1 million people in the North and Northeast between 2015 and 2018, mainly in pristine areas. Until the beginning of the LpT, the costs of the new facilities were paid by the rural dwellers. This program guaranteed the free installation of the electrical installation to the interior of the residence determined by the government in the contract.

To ensure the transparency of the program, the MME has launched the Program Operations Manual. This manual has defined the operational structure, objectives, procedures, technical and financial criteria, priorities and functioning, that is, has transparently outlined simple and objective rules. In addition, as a participatory forum, it created a Management Committee in each State, placing priority and monitoring the implementation (MME - LpT 2011).

LpT was managed as a public policy, and encompassed a federal, state and municipal structure with an impressive local capillarity. It was coordinated by the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME), operated by the Brazilian Electric Power Plants (Eletrobras), and regulated by the National Electric Energy Agency (Aneel), the energy regulatory agency.

The implementation of the phases was performed by the electric utilities and rural cooperatives. It was inspected by five institutions: MME, Eletrobras, National Management Committee of Universalization - CGN, Regional Coordinators and State Management Committees - CGE, each with its clearly delineated competence.

A unique financial balance was created to enable free access to new connections. Part of the program was made possible because of sectoral energy funds: from the Energy Development Account (CDE), a federal government subsidy, and the Global Reversal Reserve (RGR); and because of special lines of financing from the federal bank “Caixa Econômica Federal” (CEF). The rest of the investment was shared between state governments and electric power distribution companies. Total investments were US$ 6.9 billion, including US$ 5.1 billion from the federal government (MME 2010).

As the final consumer did not bear the costs of the new installation, the consumers of the entire concession area were the ones who paid for it. The investment equation is the division among states and the federal government (10%), consumers (90%), limiting the tariff to 8%, and the rest paid by the electric utility responsible for the area of concession, without cost coverage obligation (Fournier and Penteado 2008FOURNIER AC AND PENTEADO CL. 2008. Eletrificação Rural: Desafios para a Universalização da Energia. In: XII Congresso Brasileiro de Energia. Rio de Janeiro, Brasil, Vol. 1, p. 372 -387. Accessed on 10 July, 2017.

In addition to the management and public-private partnership, there was direct collaboration of several ministries through actions integrated into the MME, such as the Ministry of Education (schools, night classes), Ministry of Health (hospitals and health posts), Ministry of Transport (roads), Ministry of Communications (digital inclusion) and other coordinated actions (MME - LpT 2008).

The project also included an “Integrated Actions Plan” (PAI) and a line of “Special Projects”. PAI created strategies to integrate projects and social programs into LpT projects, enabling partnerships and articulations with local actors, seeking to improve the quality of life of rural populations.

Special projects arose from the need to make the program viable. In the beginning, the connections were made by extensions of conventional electricity wires or by fossil fuel thermal power plant units. The great challenge was to serve extremely isolated populations or those in locations of low population density (MME - LpT 2007). Thus, Special Projects were launched in 2009, financed partly by economic subsidy (85%) and partly by executing agents (15%). They are transparently regulated by the Manual of Special Projects to serve this population:

“By means of decentralized electricity generation, using renewable sources compatible with the local reality, as well as by means of the construction of small stretches of distribution networks in primary and / or secondary voltages - mini-grids, including, when necessary, the use of unconventional distribution grids (for underwater crossings, crossings in forests and others), using technologies under current legislation” (MME - LpT 2009).

The power of the state to foster the rural electrification program as “an instrument of development and social inclusion” (MME - LpT 2015) was likely to be the main driver of its success. The differentials of the program and what has possibly led to the almost universal access to energy services - which can be used for the universal access to sanitation - were: specific public and private financial sources and funds; the free installations for new customers (Camargo and Ribeiro 2015CAMARGO E AND RIBEIRO F. 2015. Programa Luz Para Todos: Avanços e Retrocessos - Um Novo Estoque de Excluídos. In: Agrener GD (Ed), 10º Congresso sobre Geração Distribuída e Energia no Meio Rural 11 a 13 de novembro de 2015. USP, São Paulo, Brasil. Accessed on 10 July, 2017.
), (paid for by the companies, by the federal fund, by the governments, and by the consumers with better incomes); its implementation as a public policy for socioeconomic development; regulation, implementation and operation agencies; a system of tariffs shared with consumers and companies; and the coordination among various ministries. Also, for pristine areas, the project used the special project category, which fostered local solutions with the power of the State, by means of partnerships with local communities and municipalities. And, among all, the focus on the underprivileged, which is a complete differential when compared to pure market forces.

Like the Rural Electrification Program, the National Plan for Sanitation (Plansab) is incredibly detailed (MCID 2013), and it is regularly assessed by the National Secretariat of Environmental Sanitation (SNSA), an institution under the auspices of the Ministry of the Cities (MCID), as explained in the article. It establishes goals, deadlines, and amount of investments; regulates the participation of private sector; describes competencies and actions of each federative entity, and the possibility of cooperation of public-private agents to promote strategic and long-term management; and establishes Management Committees and Investment Funds, but its results were meagre. Brazil has legal structure, and national and international budgets to provide universal access to sanitation. “However, these remain only as potential if proper governance and accountability mechanisms are not put in place” (Nhamo 2016NHAMO G. 2016. New Global Sustainable Development Agenda: A Focus on Africa. Sust Dev 25: 227-241.).

The Plansab evaluation report points to some causes for this failure (Inecon/FGV 2008) and the main ones are “the existence of an unstable regulatory environment, with entities that perform the supervisory or regulation works with weak technical and institutional capacity, and contractual goals that are not always clearly defined and difficult to audit”. In addition, there is a lack of coordination between expected resources and annual budget planning required; federal assistance in investment and resource allocation; and no regulatory agency for the sector. On top of that, States and municipalities, which are mainly responsible for the operationalization of the Plan (differently from the provision of energy services), are mostly in debt and have a low investment potential.

Considering the low tariffs, lack of supervision in the investments and operation, the inadequacy of the technical staff and the high level of losses in distribution (the national average of losses in the distribution of water was 36.7% in 2015), the result is the low level of investment in the necessary works and of the participation of the private sector in certain localities (Senado Federal, 2016FEDERAL S. 2016. Saneamento: A Linha Divisória da Saúde Pública, no. 27. Senado Federal Brasileiro, Brasília, Distrito Federal, Brasil. Accessed on 17 June, 2017.
). The tension between short-term and long-term goals will always be present in this sector because of the capital intensity and the huge levels of investment needed (Cepal 2017).

The national scenario for a proper implementation of universal access for sanitation does not seem very optimistic, but neither did the one for rural electrification. Plansab is an incredible plan, but it is premature to analyze its results. This article aimed to analyze a ten-year evolution of the sector so as to conclude that universal access is possible.

In considering the example of rural electrification, the following points should also be considered. As simple as it might seem, a universal access program to sanitation would have to design an operational manual, with institutions and roles. A regulatory agency should be created, together with clear roles assigned to the existing organizations. A specific secretary for the program also has to be articulated with committees for national, regional and local articulation.

It would establish its own special project manual based on social technologies applied in each region. Social technologies are defined here as “technologies that are mainly oriented towards simplicity, low cost, easy applicability and social impact, but are not necessarily associated with collective organizations. They are good and affordable ideas, but people do not need to organize collectively to better use them” (Lassance and Pedreira 2004LASSANCE A AND PEDREIRA J. 2004. Tecnologias sociais e políticas públicas. In: Banco do Brasil. Tecnologia social: uma estratégia para o desenvolvimento. Fundação Banco do Brasil, Rio de Janeiro. Accessed on 24 October, 2017.
). There is a myriad of ministries, local governments, and institutions that already implement social technologies in their projects. There should be a concentrated effort to provide a manual to describe their use under a universal access to sanitation program.

As an example, social technologies have already been implemented as a public policy since 2003, when the financing started to build cisterns for harvesting water in rural area (MDS 2016), which delivered 1.2 million cisterns from 2003 to 2016. In March 2017, under the Decree 268/2017 of the Ministry of Cities, which regulates the National Rural Housing Program (Brasil 2017), rural households started to have access to finance to pay (1) for cisterns for the collection and storage of rainwater “according to project technical specifications of the National Program to Support Rainwater Harvesting and Other Social Technologies (Cisterns Program) and (2) for effluent treatment solutions by means of systems for wastewater disposal according to the manual of the National Health Foundation of the Ministry of Health (FUNASA) and of biodigester septic tanks, according to the approved or developed projects of the Brazilian Agricultural Research Company (Embrapa 2010).

A financial structure to implement and to operate the program should be developed, with subventions from the governments and shared responsibilities for the provider of the services; with an appropriate system of transparency and social control. A new and specific tariff for those services must be included in this planning, considering that the underprivileged ones should not bear those costs. According to Peixoto (2013PEIXOTO JB. 2013. Aspectos da Gestão Econômico-financeira dos serviços de Saneamento Básico no Brasil. In: Heller L and Castro JE (Eds), Política Pública e Gestão de Serviços de Saneamento. Rio de Janeiro: Editora Fiocruz; Belo Horizonte: Editora UFMG, 567 p. ), “the access to services of sanitation only for the ones who pay tariffs or fees has been contributing to the exclusion of the poorest part of the population from this social right”. A possible initiative, which was indeed applied in the rural energy program, would be to implement two Articles of Law 14,445/97 (Brasil 2007, Peixoto 2013). These are Article 29, which provides for “a subsidy policy for the users or localities which do not have capacity for payment or the economic scale to cover the costs of installations”, and Article 13, which provides for a fund to pay for the universalization of public sanitation services”. Finally, a transparency portal should be established with targets, investments, subsidies, funds, financing, loans, services provided and timelines; organization and public positions should be established for this universalization program in order to keep appropriate social control.

In summary, as discussed thorough this section, key success factors that brought about the universal access to electricity should be adapted and used for the universal access to sanitation, and these policies would include: specific public and private financial sources and funds as well as transparency on the administration of these resources; the free installation and restoration of connections or the implementation of special sustainable projects for new customers (paid for by the companies, by the federal fund, by the governments, and by the consumers with better incomes); its implementation as a public policy for socioeconomic development considering the impacts that the SDG 06 have on other SDGs; regulation, implementation and/or operation of public agencies; a system of highly subsidized rates with tariffs shared with economically well-off consumers and companies; and the coordination among various ministries. And, among all, as advocated in the rural electrification case, the focus on the underprivileged, which is a complete differential when compared to pure market forces.

The universal access to sanitation should be a concerted action among the Union, States and municipalities, as the universalization of electricity was. The success of rural electrification shows that it is possible to achieve universal access to sanitation, with planning, implementation and operation; investment; transparency; and, above all, political will.


It is firmly lodged in the Brazilian popular imagination that underground works do not attract votes and that sanitation infrastructure is always at the bottom of their politicians’ agenda because it involves subterranean and thus invisible benefits. Legend or fact, Brazil presents impressively precarious indexes for sanitation, with severe consequences. The latest epidemics in Brazil, for instance, were directly related to lack of sanitation. The “Instituto Trata Brasil” study shows that the 10 worst cities in Brazil regarding sanitation recorded 3 to 5 times more cases of hospitalization and deaths related to diarrhoea, dengue and Leptospirosis than the top 10 (ITB 2017). According to discussions in the Federal Senate, epidemics caused by Aedes aegypti (such as dengue, chicungunha, zika), and new cases of yellow fever, demonstrate the inadequacy of Plansab and the sanitation infrastructure (Senado Federal, 2016). Zika virus was even more acute and was considered a global health emergency on the 1st February 2016 by the World Health Organization (WHO 2016).

There are regulatory milestones for the universalization of the sanitation service with implementation far from expected. However, based on the successful experience of the rural electrification program, it is concluded that there is a possibility of a new universalization program that may result in the inclusion of millions of people within the most basic services of society: access to the sewer system, water supply and the collection and proper disposal of waste. Access means the right to life, health and a healthy environment, and it would finally accomplish a Brazilian international commitment: the SDGs.


Publication Dates

  • Publication in this collection
    16 Apr 2018
  • Date of issue
    Apr-June 2018


  • Received
    02 Aug 2017
  • Accepted
    20 Dec 2017
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