Monthly Archives: January 2013

Majora Carter: Greening the ghetto, Democratizing Sustainability!

As a black person in America, I am twice as likely as a white person to live in an area where air pollution poses the greatest risk to my health. I am five times more likely to live within walking distance of a power plant or chemical facility — which I do.” (Majora Carter)

In an emotionally charged talk, MacArthur-winning activist Majora Carter details her fight for environmental justice in the South Bronx — and shows how minority neighborhoods suffer most from flawed urban policy.

Majora Carter redefined the field of environmental equality, starting in the South Bronx at the turn of the century. Now she is leading the local economic development movement across the USA

Catch her TED Talk at

She highlights example of South Bronx where Planning did not take care of the poor neighbourhood, she states “Now, why is this story important? Because from a planning perspective, economic degradation begets environmental degradation, which begets social degradation. The disinvestment that began in the 1960s set the stage for all the environmental injustices that were to come. Antiquated zoning and land-use regulations are  still used to this day to continue putting polluting facilities in my neighbourhood. Are these factors taken into consideration when land-use policy is decided? What costs are associated with these decisions? And who pays? Who profits? Does anything justify what the local community goes through? This was “planning” — in quotes — that did not have our best interests in mind.”

In the talk she highlights the role community groups have done towards an environmentally just planning in South Bronx. They began by creating a park which was a first stage of a greenway movement in South Bronx. Next came the plan for a waterfront esplanade with dedicated on-street bikes, placement of waste and other facilities, informing public etc. They run job training in the files of ecological restorations; they are seeding what they call the ‘green collar jobs’. Community has even created alternate transport plan, have created New York’s first green cool roof and many more actions!

She states that she is interested in what she calls the ‘triple bottom line’ that sustainable development can produce! Developments that have the potential to create positive returns for all concerned: the developers, government and community where these projects go up!

She ends with a calling:  “Help me make Green new Black!”


2012 in review: How democracy is forcing itself onto the global urban agenda

The Global Urbanist

Kerwin Datu and Naik Lashermes of Global Urbanist trace the trends and the challenges that our cities have faced in 2012 in their recent article that can be read at :

The article questions the larger theme that has emerged tracing the urban development scenario:  how to manage and improve our cities without cutting across the grain of them. How do we repair the disruption and displacement caused by development, how do we strengthen the rights and recognise the contributions of all communities, how do we reorganise what we have rather than destroy it through reinvention, and how do we do all of this while being who we want to be, individually and collectively?

Some of the highlights of the article are:


This was a year in which news of evictions of the poor arrived with depressing regularity. As Raquel Rolnik, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, suggested in Naples this September, this is a global phenomenon intensified by rapid economic growth and the free flow of capital looking for investment opportunities in the world’s urban areas. Some of the examples of the same have been threat in Rio de Janeiro (such as in Vila Autódromo on the proposed Olympic Park site or the old port areas sighted for redevelopment) and Lagos (notably the sublimely innovative Makoko community) and traders being pushed aside in the Gandhi Bazaar in Bangalorethe tourist trail in Hampithe western Chinese outpost of Xining. Even wealthy American cities like San Francisco andChicago are not above the insensitive demolition of poor communities.

The idea that development is essentially a win-win process is a fallacy. There is always some community that suffers in every urban development project, and it is wrong to pretend that such suffering is inevitable or that there must always be sacrifices to be made for the greater good. Every development project, if it has any net benefit at all, can afford to recompense the costs that it imposes on others. The human, social and economic costs of every project can be identified and to a large extent measured and evaluated.


Yet these evictions and displacements are merely the acute expression of a larger phenomenon we are inclined to call discriminatory cities — cities whose laws, policies, planning processes and economic priorities are effectively structured to discriminate against poor and informal communities, to ignore their needs or restrict their ability to claim their rights as citizens, often for the purported benefit of formal businesses and residents or worse, in desperate attempts to gain the approval of foreign observers and investors. For example, Beijing is “sealing in” immigrant residents of its urban villages, Shanghai is harassing traders and motorcycle taxi drivers, Gurgaon is refusing to acknowledge or provide services to workers who drive its factories, while Johannesburg seems to be creating separate rail systems for its wealthy and poor areas and Nairobi is circumventing its congested centre rather than relieving it. We seem to be a long way from the principle that all citizens deserve the equal attention and concern of the political system that governs them.


When we displace or demolish any community we are destroying not just homes, but also places of employment, places of education, and places of social interaction and therefore of economic support, as the above examples of marginalised traders show. Arguably we need to assert not only a right to adequate housing, but a right to adequate space so that every citizen can satisfy all the functions they carry out within the urban economy and community. This carries into the political and international dimensions: too many governments and other organisations focus on urban development as a problem of housing, neglecting to address and even to monitor our collective progress in improving the livelihoods and income levelsof all communities in our cities.


So far this is very much a social agenda, but there remain fundamental planning and environmental questions to be addressed in the face of ongoing urbanisation and urban growth. While all the world is in agreement that we need to move from fossil-fuel-dependent models towards greater symbiosis with the environment, and ideas abound for rendering the city more green, more intelligent, more resilient, more liveable, we are unimpressed that nearly thirty years after the Brundtland Commission we are still searching for ways to reduce the harm we cause to the environment and our own sustainability rather than seeking to design urban systems that replicate ecological processes and produce net benefits to the environment and our resource base.


Question of urban identities, especially those which arise through situations of political conflict has been of importance in these last few years. In postwar contexts such asthe redevelopment of Martyrs’ Square in Beirut, thereemergence of Mogadishu from the shadow of civil war or the reconstruction of Stari Most, the “old bridge” of Mostar, understanding the identities that exist within a city (those attached to communities as well as those attached to places within the city), respecting them, giving them expression, and resolving them where they continue to sow division, is fundamental to the healing process.


If the question of identity has emerged so strongly in urban planning this year, it is because it reflects the need for a major overhaul of how the wider public participates in the formation of the city. What emerges from this surprisingly insistent question of identity is a democratic agenda: how to listen to the people, since the people obviously refuse to go unheard.



“Resilient Cities- Experiences from ACCCRN in Asia and Beyond”

The theme of cities and climate change is gaining momentum all over the world as the cities
increasingly start experiencing the impacts of climate variability and change. In Asia, The Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network – A 7 year duration initiative was conceived and launched by the Rockefeller Foundation in 2008. ACCCRN aims to catalyse
attention, funding, and action on building climate change resilience for poor and vulnerable people in cities by creating robust models and methodologies for assessing and addressing risk through active engagement and analysis of 10 cities in Asia. The initiative has supported cities to assess their climate risks and vulnerabilities and develop their resilience strategies. Till date ACCCRN has supported and funded 23 city projects across 10 cities in 4 Asian countries (India, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam) amounting to about 9.4 Million US $. The city projects address multiple sectors and include interventions for floods/drainage, disaster risk reduction, water resource, housing and health. The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) was appointed as the National Policy Adviser to ACCCRN in India in the year 2009.

With an objective of bringing together the knowledge and experience generated through the ACCCRN initiative and to explore synergies with similar other initiatives, TERI and Rockefeller Foundation is organizing an International Workshop on “Resilient Cities- Experiences from ACCCRN in Asia and Beyond” under the aegis of the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit (DSDS)-TERI’s flagship international annual event wherein TERI engages global partners to build bold visions for a development paradigm that calls for sustainability across the present and future generations.


Catch the workshop at

 29 January, 2013 Jacaranda, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi, India

Hoping against hope- BSUP/JNNURM a failed promise!

On TerraUrban (Kya Hua Tera Wada, Pro-poor governing climate ) you read about the only ‘in-situ’ slum upgradation project initiated by Raipur Municipal Corporation which still hasn’t resulted in any provision of housing for the displaced.

Read the recent article by Jyotindra Prasad traces the plight of 5000 residents of Telibandha locality in Raipur who have been uprooted from their homes about 20 months ago. These residents were promised a temporary abode till the up gradation work was to be initiated in their locality. Only 800 of these residents who originally inhabit the area around the Telibandha pond where temporarily settled in Boriakala which is 16km away from Raipur with an assurance that they will be back to the original place in a year. However construction work at Telibandha has not even began!

The situation for the 800 who were resettled is as traumatic as those who were left in lurch! RMC has stopped the services of buses, doctors, anganbadi school from this resettled area. Electricity is being charged for which the slum dwellers are unable to pay for therefore that shall also be soon cut. The slum dwellers are complaining that they have found that their names have now been excluded from the voters list and were not even counted in 2011 census.

For all this RMC quickly puts the blame on procedural issues of tenders and contractors! This is the plight of our poor under a pioneering centrally sponsored scheme of JNNURM!! What hope do we have now from the second phase of JNNURM or the complete slum eradication under Rajiv Awas Yojana


Seven Propositions and One Challenge from Ejipura

By Gautam Bhan, published in Kafila

The recent eviction of over 1500 Economically Weaker Section (EWS) households from Ejipura in Bangalore to make way for a high-end mixed-use development has made Gautam question this eviction and raise seven quick propositions on how to understand these evictions, how to respond in the immediate and near-term.

The propositions he highlights are:

1. The “illegality” of the Ejipura settlement has to be seen in the context of a larger failure of the state to build adequate and legal EWS housing. If there is, a systematic failure to build enough housing the poor can legally own or rent – is their occupation of vacant public land then “illegality” or the “impossibility of legality”?

2. The move to label current Ejipura residents as “unauthorized occupants” and pit them against “original residents” is a strategic move to pit the poor against each other while distracting from the real question of the inadequacy of affordable, accessible and safe shelter that they can afford: this move may well be motivated only to reduce significantly the number of households to be resettled — the number of “original allottees” will be significantly less than the number of current residents.

3. The eviction and the exclusion of long-term current residents goes against the policy trends across the city, state and the centre to refuse forced evicitions to move towards in-situ upgrading. The Rajiv Awaas Yojana directly recognizes the right of all current residents (regardless of whether they are “original allottees” of any kind) to shelter in the city and upgradation.

4. The lack of access to enough legal housing does not impact the poor alone. The rich also build illegal housing in a differeny way: the Unauthorised Colony.

5. When the local MLA says that there “is nothing he can do” against the order of the High Court, we must both contextualize and challenge this statement.

6. Contravening current judicial precedence, international human rights obligations, and adherence to emerging local policy regimes, the eviction in Ejipura occurred before adequate alternative resettlement was in place.

7. The decision to use land that housed the poor – let us set aside for a moment whether they were or were not authorized – for a redevelopment towards higher-end residential and commercial use itself cannot escape scrutiny.


Unclear Responsibilities for RAY Implementation Put Bilaspur Slum-Dwellers in a Difficult Position

By Eric Kasper and Deepika Pandey

As noted in previous blog posts Slum Dwellers Disenchanted With Government Schemes , One Step at a time, and Information gap and disillusion as barriers , PRIA is working with other grassroots NGOs to help organize slum dwellers in 2 cities of Chhattisgarh – Bilaspur and Raipur – along with Patna and Jaipur. We chose to organize in these communities because these cities will be implementing the Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY), a scheme for creating slum-free cities. Building community capacities for meaningful participation in RAY is one of the main short-term goals for our organizing efforts.

Among the myriad possible challenges in implementing this scheme, one that has become a pressing concern in Bilaspur is coordination and clarification of responsibilities among different governing bodies. Many of the Bilaspur slums are hoping to participate in RAY, which will be implemented by Bilaspur Municipal Corporation but they live on land belonging to the Railway Department.

Since the slums reside on land owned by a central government department, it’s not clear if responsibility for their rehabilitation lies with the Railway Department or the Bilaspur Municipal Corporation. The BMC does not have clear authority to make decisions about what happens to the railway slums, but the Railway Department has no clear obligations under RAY to deal with the slums either.

The wording of the RAY guidance is vague. Landowning ministries are encouraged to “explore” options for innovative “pilot programmes.” This lack of clarity about the responsibilities of Central Government Departments and Ministries was addressed in a press release from the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation (HUPA) on 19 December.

We are told that a meeting was held with State Ministers in charge of Housing to discuss issues like this one and that this issue was “taken up in the meeting of Committee of Secretaries having representation of various land-owning Ministries such as Railways, Forest, Civil Aviation, Defence etc.” Several other meetings have also been held, but we are not told about any conclusions that may have been reached.

We are simply told that the “Central Government Ministries and Departments have been requested to take up slum survey and other preparatory activities and prepare pilot projects for seeking Central assistance support under the current phase of Rajiv Awas Yojana.” It’s not clear whether this request will be enforced. Nor is it clear whether, in case a department feels no particular motivation to participate in this project or has no innovative ideas for how it might be successfully carried out, sound courses of action might be suggested.

In Bilaspur, the slum-dwellers occupying Railway Department land are willing to be relocated. But the Railway Department has shown little willingness to negotiate about their compensation. The process of carrying out a survey, finding land for relocations, negotiating the lease rights or property rights to the new land (would it be other Railway land or would BMC be responsible for providing land?), working with private-sector contractors to design new housing with community participation, and arranging for access to basic services would require years of effort. The incentive seems to be to get rid of the slum dwellers before the Department is required to deal with them under RAY. How can the other parties with interests in effectively working toward a slum-free Bilaspur tip the balance away from eviction?

For their part, the slum dwellers are doing all they can. At the Slum Improvement Committee orientation organized by PRIA and SYM, the slum-dwellers pressed for answers from government representatives. They urged their elected leaders to advocate for their interests, and they held rallies to draw public attention to the issue.

As reported in the clippings below, they have even given a memorandum to the Collector of Raipur District Thakur Ram Singh, Railway General Manager Arunendra Kumar, and DRM K.C. Trivedi requesting not to be evicted before participating in the Rajiv Awas Yojana and threatening a fast and self-immolation if made homeless. Nevertheless, they are still in dire straits, with eviction without compensation an imminent threat. How could this situation have been avoided? How should the RAY policy be clarified to address these kinds of situations?



PRESS RELEASE: Demolition of EWS quarters and the Eviction of Residents

Saturday, January 19, 2013, Bangalore

Issued by: People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), People’s Democratic
Forum (PDF) & Concern – Bangalore

The BBMP today began demolition of homes and evicting residents from the
EWS quarters at Ejipura.  During the process of demolition and eviction
protestors were lathi charged, physically dragged by the police and
arrested – all of them women. They have been remanded to judicial custody
till next Tuesday. These women have been separated from their families and
homes, and cannot protect their shelters and belongings from the demolition

The BBMP official, B T Ramesh who was at the spot could not produce any
official documents that showed that he and his crew had the authority to
demolish structures and evict residents. Nor did he produce any copy of the
notification supposedly shared with the residents a month back.  Notices
which the BBMP claimed were pasted on the houses, were not visible on any
of the houses. All the residents that we spoke to had not been notified and
were unaware of this demolition drive.

In a meeting with the BBMP Commissioner today, Mr. Siddaiah agreed to stop
demolitions of the occupied homes and to give a time period of 3 months for
evacuation. In fact, Mr. Siddaiah called BT Ramesh in presence of activists
and EWS residents. However, the demolition continued unabated; Mr. Ramesh
insisted on a written order from Commissioners office, who conveniently
disappeared by then. As of this afternoon, the police had given a 6 pm
notice to the residents to clear their belongings.  As of now, it is
reported that as many as 500 homes have been razed to the ground by the
BBMP bulldozers today. Many families are out on the streets, since they do
not have the finances or support to re-locate. Children whose mothers were
arrested are in streets – searching them. Women cry helpless, not knowing
where to take their young and old.

We, the members of civil society, representing different organisations
(PUCL, PDF, and Concern) condemn the deplorable and inhuman way the
demolitions, police violence and evictions have been implemented. We call
for an immediate and complete halt to the eviction of residents and the
demolition of occupied homes in the EWS quarters. We further demand that
all charges against the residents and activists be dropped.

 Right to shelter is one of the principle rights enshrined in Article 21 of
our constitution. A state, under no circumstance, has a right to go against
either the letter or the spirit of this right without providing alternative
arrangements for all those it renders homeless. Further the police
protection of demolitions does not legitimise its use of brute force and
physical violence against the weakest in our society – who are but
protesting, losing their all.