Planet of Slums!?

Slum definition have often been contested and criticized. The delimitation of what the word “slum” covers is even more complex when one considers the variety of words it has generated in other languages. The words which describe the slums also incorporate other specific realities, such as in French, the bidonvilles, describing precarious settlements made out of iron sheets and tins (bidons).

• In French: Bidonvilles, Taudis,Habitat Précaire,Habitat Spontané.

• In Spanish:Asentimientos Irregulares,Barrio Marginal (Barcelona), Barraca (Barcelona), Conventillos (Quito), Colonias Populares (Mexico), Tugurio and Solares (Lima), Bohios, Cuarterias or Solar (Cuba),Villa Miseria (Colombia).

• In Arabic: Mudun Safi, Lahbach, Brarek, Medina Achouaia, Foundouks and Karyan (Rabat-Sale), Carton, Safeih, Ishash, Galoos and Shammasa (Khartoum), Tanake (Beirut), Aashwa’i and Baladi (Cairo).

• In Russian: Hrushebi, Baraks (Moscow).

• In Portuguese: Favela,Morro, Cortiço, Comunidade, Loteamento.

• In American English: Hood (Los Angeles), Blight areas.

• In other languages: “chawls”/chalis (Ahmedabad,Mumbai), Ahatas (Kanpur), Katras (Delhi), Bustee (Kolkata), Zopadpattis (Maharashtra), “cheris” (Chennai), Katchi Abadis (Karachi), Iskwater, Estero, Eskinita, Looban and Dagat-dagatan (Manila), Umjondolo (Zulu, Durban),Watta, Pelpath, Udukku or Pelli

 Here are some descriptions and definitions of slums:

Types of slums Official ‘slum’ definition(s) Unofficial definition(s)
Chawls”: originally the residential units build in the mill premises for workers. According to the 49th round of NSSO (January-June 1993), a compact area with a collection of poorly built tenements, mostly of temporary nature, crowded together usually with inadequate sanitary and drinking water facilities in unhygienic conditions. Considered “undeclared slum”, if at least 20 households live in that area. Certain areas declared as slums by respective local bodies or development authorities are “declared slums”.The results reflect only the availability and not adequacy of the facilities available in the slum. The structures are identified as “pucca”,“katcha”, including unserviceable “katcha” and serviceable “katcha” and “semi-pucca” structure. There are multi-storied concrete tenements called “Chawls”/“chalis” in Bombay and Ahmedabad, which are one room housing units constructed in a row to house the mill workers. Are also known as “katras” in Delhi, unsanitary, overcrowded ahatas in “Kanpur”, “cheries” in Madras and “bustees” in Kolkata. In Maharashtra, slums are generally referred to as“zopadpattis”, while in northern India they are known as “jhuggis”.
Slums: represent illegal occupation of marginal areas of the city by migrants and other economically weaker sections. Lack adequate facilities and basic amenities and are found along the riverfront, low-lying areas, vacant private/government land, etc.
Types of slums Official ‘slum’ definition(s) Unofficial definition(s)
Chawls”: rental tenements constructed in Mumbai by factory and landowners for low-income workers between 1920 and 1956. One-room tenements with a cooking place and shared common lavatories were provided and meant to house mostly single men for nominal rents. With consolidation of male migrants in the city, their families joined them. Consequently, densities of these single room tenements increased phenomenally and structures began to deteriorate very fast. Although pavement dwellers and chawls have poor slum like conditions, these do not fall under the legaldefinition of “slum”.
Patra chawls”: Consist of mainly semipermanent structures, which are both of authorized and unauthorized types
Zopadpattis” (squatters): These are the most predominant low-income informal settlements falling under the category of slum.
Pavement Dwelling: Pavement Dwellers are households, dominated by single male migrants living in hutments built on the footpaths of Mumbai’s roads close to places of employment. Not eligible for improvement schemes and often faced harassment and demolition.
Types of slums Official ‘slum’ definition(s) Unofficial definition(s)
Bustee dwellers having entered the city much before the growth of industrialisation, to serve British families, dwellings close to posh areas. Slum: Slum area (Improvement and Clearance) Act, 1956, Government of India: areas where buildings are in any respect unfit for human habitation. Bustees: officially authorized slums.
Bustees being the outcome of industrialisation, so-called Thika tenants, with land rented to slum dwellers by middlemen (zamindar) sometimes including renting of huts “Compendium of Environment Statistics, 1997” CSO, Government of India: a slum is defined as an aerial unit having 25 or more katcha structures mostly of temporary nature or 50 or more households residing mostly in katcha structures huddled together or inhabited persons with practically no private latrine and inadequate public latrine and water facilities. Squatter settlements (along canals, etc.): not officially authorized, worse off than bustees
Refugee Resettlement Colony (locally called as “udbastu” colony) where land has been leased out for 99 years to the erstwhile migrants of present Bangladesh by the Government on nominal rent Bustee: Definition of the Kolkota Municipal Corporation Act 1980, area containing land not less than seven hundred square metres in area occupied by or for the purposes of any collection of huts or other structures used or intended to be used for human habitation.
Encroachment of road side (Jhupri), Canal (khaldhar),Maidan or any vacant place (udbastu) by the poor people either displaced form the city itself or retrenched from the their working place. Another type of displacement is reported as displacement due to excessive increase in family size.
Phnom Penh
Types of slums Official ‘slum’ definition(s) Unofficial definition(s)
Squatters on public land: these settlements developed alongside relatively wide streets, railway tracks, riversides, and boengs (water reservoirs used to irrigate farmland during dry season). Until 2000, the Municipality of Phnom Penh categorized slums into illegal “squatter” and “urban poor” settlements with a recognized occupancy status. The irony of such a definition is that there is no clear distinction between legal and illegal occupancy in Phnom Penh, since all private ownership of land was abolished in 1974, and no clear ownership system has been implemented since then. The term “squatter”, long used in Phnom Penh to classify most inhabitants of low-income settlements yet conveys much more than a connotation of illegality. In Khmer, it refers to “people living in anarchy”, and is strongly linked to immorality, disorder and criminality.In 2000, Prime Minister Hun Sen yet renamed squatter dwellers as “temporary residents”, while publicly recognizing their economic value to the city In Khmer, it refers to “people living in anarchy”, and is strongly linked to immorality, disorder and criminality.
Slums on private land: small clusters of families settled in disaffected alleys of better-off districts, while other groups squat in dilapidated, multiple occupancy buildings in the centre of the city, where owners wait to sell the building for commercial development.
Rooftop dwellers: Increasingly, urban poor also informally purchase plots on the rooftops of these buildings where they squat relatively close to their place of work.
Squatters in rural fringe: since 1995, new rural migrants develop squatter areas on the rural fringe of the city, on nonconstructible public land where long-term occupation may provide them some tenure rights.
Types of slums Official ‘slum’ definition(s) Unofficial definition(s)
Slums: Old deteriorating tenements or subdivided derelict houses. The slums tenements, built mostly of permanent materials, are very often single roomed and compactly arranged, in back to back rows. The occupants have a definite legal status of occupancy. In official documents, mostly low-income settlements are identified according to the different types of settlement arrangements as Slums, Shanties,Upgraded Settlements, Relocated Settlements or low-cost flats.Slums: Old tenements, erected to accommodate the influx of a new labour force into the city during a period when a thriving plantation industry required labour for processing, packaging, and storage, handling and shipping. Tenement units normally consist of a single bedroom, a small veranda, and a living area with common water taps and latrine facilities. They were usually built in rows on a block of land commonly referred to as a garden. These so called tenements contain anything between a group of two or three units and a few hundreds arranged in rows.  “Watta” in local language is the common term that is being used for both slums and shanty settlements in Colombo by the general public. English translation of ‘Watta” is Garden. Captain Garden, Ali watta, Kadirana watta are some examples of names used for Colombo slums and shanties.
Shanties: Improvised and unauthorized shelters, constructed by the urban squatters on state or privately owned land,without any legal rights of occupancy. The areas are badly serviced and very often unsanitary. Old residential buildings (slum houses) – In former residential areas, mainly in older parts of Colombo North and Central (e.g., Pettah, Hultsdorp, Wolfendhal) – later turned into apartments for low-income workers. They were subdivided into small units, inadequately maintained and largely deprived of basic sanitary facilities. Old residential buildings: In local Language this type of settlement arrangement is called “Mudukku”. People who are living these types of houses do not like to call their houses by the official name or the popular local term “Mudukku”. They usually call these houses ‘Row Houses’ (Peli Gewal).
Un-serviced semi-urban neighborhoods: Badly serviced residential areas in the sub-urban areas of Colombo and secondary towns. One difference from the squatter areas is that residents of these settlements have definite legal titles and sizes of the plots of these occupants are relatively larger than the shanties. Shanties: According to the Policy Paper on Slum and Shanty Upgrading of 1979, the collection of small, single-unit improvised structures constructed with non-durable materials on vacant land throughout the city. Shanties illegally occupy state or private land, usually with no regular water, sanitation or electricity supply; the majority are built on land subject to frequent flooding. Shanties: In local language this type of settlement arrangement is called as ‘Pelpath”. This term reflects a group people who are living more difficult conditions and poverty than “Mudukku” or slums according the common usage
Labour lines or derelict living quarters: These are derelict housing areas belonging to the local authority or government agencies occupied by the temporary or casual labourers. These settlements are in un-sanitary and derelict condition due to lack of maintenance over a long period of time.

Source: Slums of the World, by UNHABITAT


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