Infrastructure and basic services

What does it take to secure basic services for disadvantaged communities who currently live in either rural or urban settings in the Global South? At CGD, we focus on 3 intersecting dimensions of this challenge:

1) excellence in engineering – securing the right infrastructure for cities and beyond;

2) excellence in institutions and management – supporting institutional analysis so that services are delivered by organisations that can afford to run those services properly;

3) excellence in understanding and responding to social development processes – ensuring that governance promotes equity, and the institutional arrangements that are set up for poor people actually work for them.

Access to services underpins the human development project and infrastructure is central to the delivery of those services. We have been leading flagship research to map how unmanaged feacal flows in rapidly growing cities in the global south can travel throughout the city, resulting in high risk of disease and a significant deterioration in environmental conditions. Our ‘Shit flow’ diagrams are changing the way cities plan for sanitation, drainage and water supply interventions.

Learn about our research on infrastructure and basic services
Barbara Evans, Professor of Public Health Engineering and Co-Director of CGD, discusses research carried out with BRAC in Bangladesh on the collection, processing and re-use of human waste.


CGD supports a number of interdisciplinary teams researching in this area. The CACTUS project is a $620,000 programme supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which will develop global tools for estimating the costs and climate-impacts of a range of urban sanitation systems in multiple geographic conditions. The project will result in generalizable tools for estimating carbon impacts and vulnerability of onsite and off site sanitation options commonly used in low-income rapidly growing urban areas. The findings from C-CUS will provide first-order estimates for the more detailed studies in COSTMAP.

The VeSV project in Bangladesh focused on the challenge of managing an estimated 80,000 metric tonnes of feacal waste produced every day in rural Bangladesh. The research resulted in new models for management of human waste.

Read our award-winning REF 2014 case study on cost-effective safe wastewater re-use for improved food security.