Higher, higher we will climb

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by Swathi Subramaniam, PRIA

It is an uncommon sight to find a youth living in a high-rise building mingling and interacting with youth living in slums. On 13 November 2014, an attempt was made in B5 Bandhu Camp of VasantKunj, to bring together youth of community and youth of slum to talk to each other.

The Enact us society from SRCC, Delhi University works on social projects through implementation of sustainable livelihood solutions for slums and marginalized, http://www.enactusindia.org/index.php.

This was the very first time where a visit was made by undergraduate students studying in SRCC made an effort to meet the youth in Bandhu Camp B-5 slum. This interaction gave a first time exposure to youths living in the community to share their problems with the youth of their own age from a premier college of Delhi.

The interaction focused on understanding the issues and limitations faced by youths in slums and possible direction for their future. Two groups were formed of boys and girls. The groups included youth from college and slum. The reason for forming separate groups was so that the girls in slums open up and express themselves without any hesitation. These discussions were held with the intention to understand the youth, their problems in the slum, their education background and their future aspirations.

Educational level of the youth was good. Every child whether boy or girl went to school. They however struggled while pursuing higher education because of the level of difficulty and lack of guidance in their neighborhood. Tuition helped the students in performing better but the group felt that the fees are very expensive. Whenever the household expenses become high they are forced to discontinue their tuition.
The mobile toilets which were implemented with the help of SIC members in the B5 slum has been violated and has failed to serve the intended purpose. The slum dwellers have to now pay Rs. 2 per visit for using the toilets. As a result none of them are using it.

Another major problem identified by the youth of the community is solid waste management. The slum generates a lot of waste and there is no proper facility of waste disposal. All the waste is gathered and dumped in the forest area which is behind the slum. The area behind the slum is as well used for defecation, where the males have lot of space for defecation in the forest and due to safety issues women defecate near the slum itself. The waste of the slum dumped behind the slum gets cleaned once a year. The rag pickers from nearby Bengali basti collect the rags and sell it. The youth are not looking at collecting rags as a livelihood and aspire for better employment opportunities.

The youth identified alcohol as another major problem in their slums.

The youth of slums have been living in neighborhood of educated colonies and almost all the children have attended schools and some are pursuing higher studies. This has impacted the aspiration level of youth in the slum and they want to be in more dignified and respectable professions. They donot want to be rag pickers or daily wage earners. Their aspiration needs to be nurtured through regular counseling and access to appropriate skills. What our Prime Minister has quoted skill development is the need of the hour and youth of the slum is a perfect candidate to be benefited.

Terra Urban Monthly Digest

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Here is your quick snapshot of all activities on Terraurban for the month of October!!!
You can also download a pdf version of the same through the following link:Terraurban- oct digest

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Investing thoroughly in early childhood is investing in the nation’s development

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by Dharitri Patnaik, India Representative, Bernard van Leer Foundation

Young children are rarely heard. This is mostly because of the attitude we have towards children. Children are not vote banks. They do not raise their voices against injustice nor do they have unions. In order to thrive, the youngest citizens depend on the rest of us, adults to pay attention and we as a society hardly pay them the attention they deserve.

In the early years of a child’s life, 700 new neural connections are formed every second.  These connections build brain architecture – the foundation upon which all later learning, behaviour and health depend.  These neural connections shape the contours of nearly a billion young children’s futures every year.  Collectively, they represent our best opportunity to live together in a prosperous and peaceful society. So, while a happy childhood can bring the best in a person at the stage of adulthood, a stressed one can make the person vulnerable by increasing risk of stress related problems including diseases.

There are close linkages between the living conditions and wellbeing of children. Housing, water, sanitation, traffic, transportation, soil, air, quality of preschools, social network and parenting have a bearing on the child’s physical, social and emotional development. While it has been established that physical environment, including home and the neighbourhoods are one of the most important determinants of health, yet the issue of child mortality and morbidity due to living conditions are hardly on the agenda of the governments or agencies working with children.

7.8 million children live in slums in India where basic services and quality of housing is completely inadequate. But slums are not the only problem.  So why do we ignore living conditions? Why do we not include the interests of children in the design and planning process? One reason is that unlike health or education, there is no established sector that covers living conditions.  It is a mixture of planners, construction companies, urban development and housing and poverty alleviation ministries, etc. who mostly operate independent of each other.  The second, more critical issue is the lack of awareness about the issues related to physical environments and how they impact children.

Sights of children playing in extremely hazardous situations, on garbage has become common in almost all the slums in India. It is not just children living in urban poverty but also children from other socio-economic backgrounds who lack access to safe play spaces. Lack of the basic amenities such as well-ventilated houses, safe water, drainage, play space etc can lead to stress and violence. Most often we see this as violence against women and children. Tensions and fights for water in slums, lack of street lights or even lighting at home lead to further harassment and abuse of children. Cramped lanes, too tight to meet the space needs of people living in tiny shacks, shared water taps and toilets, a lack of waste collection, high noise levels, violation of perceived boundaries, can all lead to hostility and endanger the safety of children.  (Bartlett, 2013).

India’s flagship programmes such as Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JnNURM), Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY) or Basic Services to the Urban Poor (BSUP) have not been successful in addressing the housing or the living conditions of the urban poor nor are they “child friendly”. The barriers to children’s development are closely associated with these amenities and environment which we often term as ‘basic’ and also most often ignore them. While the buzz on ‘Smart Cities’ and ‘ Swaach Bharat Abhiyaan’ is getting louder, I urge upon our policymakers, urban planners, child rights activists, parents, communities and children themselves to ensure that we have the ‘basics’ in place and that these basics (housing that can accommodate a family of five, water and sanitation, well managed waste management system, electricity, play spaces etc) has to be child friendly and developed in consultation with children.

A strong foundation in early childhood lays the groundwork for responsible citizenship, economic prosperity, healthy communities, and successful parenting of the next generation. A weak foundation can seriously undermine the social and economic vitality of the nation.” Prof. Jack P. Shonkoff, Harvard University.

Bernard van Leer is an international private philanthropy focussed on early childhood development among disadvantaged children.

Swachh Bharat Abhiyan -drive could well go down the drain!

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by Nitya Jacob, The Hindustan Times

The pendulum has swung towards the sanitation extreme under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. Water is the forgotten piece of the sanitation puzzle, one without which the great Indian leap into the toilet can possibly come undone. Indians wash up after defecating and most also wash their hands with ash, mud or soap. At a conservative estimate open defecation needs about a litre of water for ablutions. Toilet defecation raises that to at least three litres.
Defecating in the open may not entail an additional burden on water providers, ie, women, using toilets will. They have to fetch water from the nearest source. In rural India, with the exception of the privileged 14% who get water in their houses, the rest have to fetch it from distances varying from 25m to 250m. These 86% are officially considered to have access to water have the availability, at 40 litres per capita per day, within a distance of 100m.
The access, yield and quality of a source decline rapidly after installation, creating a category of habitations called partly covered (33.9% of the total). According to a World Bank study indicated for handpumps, the difference between design and output of water from handpumps was about 10%. In the case of piped water schemes 30% households do not get water daily. Piped water schemes are most prone to breakdowns on account of high running costs, a lack of trained people to run them, a lack of a revenue model, lack of electricity, drying up of sources and poor planning.
To use a toilet daily, a family of five will need an additional 15 litres of water daily. In addition to mode of supply, water sources are under pressure. About 80% of water for human use comes from underground. Over the past three decades, groundwater has become increasingly scarce with the rapid expansion of groundwater-fed agriculture. Dug wells and handpumps that use shallow aquifers are the first to go, followed by tubewells for drinking water. Of the 7,928 blocks in the country, the Central Groundwater Board has classified about 14% as over-exploited or dark zones.
Added to the scarcity is the quality aspect. Natural and anthropogenic pollutants affect a significant percentage of groundwater. Add to this the problem of unregulated toilet construction. Norms require a minimum distance of 10m between a toilet and water source but this is never followed.
One is to build toilets that do not need water for flushing but safely separate excreta from human beings. These also separate the solids from the liquids and converts them into manure. These toilets can now be made for around Rs. 12,000, the amount of subsidy the government provides under the new sanitation campaign. The second is to ensure faecal containment that is the bare minimum that can be done to remove open defecation.
To succeed, the sanitation campaign has to be executed as part of a larger water cycle. The purpose is to improve health but without ensuring adequacy of water for ablutions, and safety of water from pollution, the cycle will not be complete. The toilets may well be constructed but Swachh Bharat will become another failed mission.

Nitya Jacob is head of policy, WaterAid India
The views expressed by the author are personal

- See more at: http://www.hindustantimes.com/comment/analysis/this-drive-could-well-go-down-the-drain/article1-1283708.aspx#sthash.B75iXQG1.dpuf

How smart is the Smart City Idea !! A Thought on World Town Planning Day

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Indian Towns sans planning!

by Ananta Prasad

The main challenges of urbanization in India are shortage of housing which is 18.78 million according to the 2011 census which Mr Venkeya Naidu, also stressed at the Plenary Session of Asia Pacific Ministerial Conference of Housing and Urban Development (APMCHUD) in Seoul recently.

The official statement of Minister emphasized stating that though accommodating slightly less than one third of the total population, the urban centres in India contribute a substantial part of the Gross Domestic Product already with 63 per cent in 2007 and the same is expected to increase to 75 per cent in 2021. However, the new Modi govt has their vision of Houses for all by end of 2012.

It is expected that by 2050, almost 50 percent of Indian population will constitute the urban areas and the Government of India is charged up with comprehensive urban up-liftment through improving quality of public transport, providing drainage, sanitation, waste management, water recycling and wi-fi facilities for public and commercial areas, added in the official note.

It is noted that World Town Planning Day is being celebrated in 30 countries of four continents on 8th November. It is a special day to recognize and promote the role of planning in creating livable urban communities. For fast growing countries like India the scenario of Town Planning is a myth. Sadly the town planners are yet to bring inclusive city planning. It has been a major issue in Indian cities that the urban planners have continuously ignored urban slums and the children in specific. Children and adolescents living in slums have been ignored as active stakeholder of urban renewal policies and programmes.

 According to HUPA, in India, 70.6% of urban population is covered by individual water connections while in china this is 91%, in South Africa 86% and in Brazil 80%.  Duration of water supply in India cities is between one to six hours. According to 2011 census, 13% of urban population defecate in the open, 37% are connected by open drains and 18% are not connected at all. 7.6 million young children living in urban poverty in Indian sufferer due to improper town planning in the country.The air quality has also deteriorated sharply carrying with it concomitant health costs. It has impacted directly to the children causing several diseases.

 Strategy to integrate networking of slums to city infrastructure and developing investment plans for slum infrastructure should be given priority as facts shows that slums have 20-25% of population but use less than 3 percent of land. The poor especially the children do not have any formal stake over land and hence are not a part of the planning process indicates the gap between the planners and the reality. Time has come for the planners to visioning the world class cities with proper inclusion of urban poor and young children living in it.

  It is noted that the central government has two major policies such as JnNURM and RAY for urban development where there has been plans to redevelop slums and to make India free from slums. But civil society members across India are now advocating for an inclusive development for all where women and children have equal share in the planning process and ensure a safe living condition for all.

 Keeping in mind the above statistics and information, if we analyse the statement by Naidu at Seoul things are very much superficial. The government has plans to adopt modern scientific methods of town and country planning practices based on Geographical Information System (GIS) in urban development. It is worth mentioning here that many programmes such as RAY and BSUP is facing issues like ownership of land as many slums in India are in forest lands or having such dispute. Any such relocation of people from existing set up to a farer place is simply not solving the issue of achieving Slum free India.

Again plans of extension of metro services to important and major urban centres, development of twin cities and creating infrastructure in satellite cities are other priority areas where now the new government is focusing on which is in other way ignoring the middle class which constitutes more than 40 percent in any urban settlement.

While the last budget it was announced for 100 new smart cities, now many civil society organisations have been questioning on the smartness of this smart city idea. However, every single day poor living condition is forcing most inhabitants of urban India to a unhealthy and unsafe well-being. Despite strengthening the existing plans in terms of hassle free execution of Urban Developmental plans, the new idea of smart cities seems very unreal in terms of implementation as the budgetary allocation is not sufficient.

The existing issues  that every urban set up in India is facing is going to be doubled of these smart city plans execute because of the obvious reason of non inclusiveness of such an idea.

(The writer is a Bangalore based development journalist and researcher on Urban Planing and Slum Development in India)

‘Re-education’ campaigns teach China’s new ghost city-dwellers how to behave

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Yuan Xiaomei, a community supervisor in Kangbashi, China, tears open a cardboard box and hands out brochures and promotional fans to crowd of locals. The fans are emblazoned: “To build a civilised city, we need you. Thank you for your participation.” The residents fan themselves and flip through the brochures. One woman explains to her friend who can’t read: “It’s telling you how you should act in the city. Don’t spit, don’t throw rubbish on the streets, don’t play loud music, don’t drive on the pavement.”

Ordos broke ground in 2005, and made headlines in 2010 for being China’s largest ‘ghost city’. But in 2011 the government started to move large numbers of farmers off their land, under the guise that small-scale agriculture was failing in Ordos, and into the city, with the hope their lives would improve. As for the farmland, it is to be consolidated in areas for industrial agriculture, or converted back into grassland and forest in an effort to curb the sandstorms that have been known to blight the region.

Urban Ordos is eager for new residents to occupy the thousands of empty apartments, offices, and commercial spaces, of which more are built every day.

Read more at: http://www.theguardian.com/cities/2014/nov/06/-sp-china-ghost-city-kangbashi-ordos-re-education-campaign?CMP=share_btn_fb