Monthly Archives: December 2013

Creating World Class Cities: A sense of Deja’vu

By Deepika Andavarapu

Slums have been part of the urban eco system since the Victorian era. While slums remain resilient to both man made and natural disasters the policy narrative on slums has continuously shifted. We can broadly classify the policy narrative on slums in to four genres or schools of thought: In the ‘slums as a problem’ genre, slums were seen as the dens of all societal evils and slum removal was considered the only solution. It took several decades of research to shift the policy narrative to  ‘slums as a solution’. In the last decade, two new genres have emerged, ‘enablement’ and ‘world-class cities’. The ‘enablement’ genre refers to policies where the slum residents are embraced as partners in redevelopment efforts. The ‘world-class cities’ genre of slum redevelopment policies refers to the ambition to be part of the newly emerging global pattern. The policy narrative in the ‘world class cities’ is reminiscent of the ‘slums as a problem’ genre.

Are we unlearning the lessons we learned?

Four Genres of Slum Redevelopment Policy

The ‘slums as a problem’ genre was the dominant school of thought during 1950s thru 1970s. In this genre, theories such as the culture of poverty and marginality portrayed slums as problematic dens of violence and prostitution; the only solution was seen as demolishing the slums and relocating the residents to public housing projects. Scholars such as Gans (1962), Jacobs (1961), Castells (1983), Perlman (1976) , Turner (1977) and others, conducted extensive studies in these so called slums both in the US and Mexico. Their research shifted the policy narrative from slum removal to slum redevelopment (‘slums as solution’). These scholars showed that slums had a unique ecology and a close-knit social fabric, they argued for policies such as tenure security and access to basic services for slum dwellers .


In the ‘enablement,’ genre there is an emphasis on globalization from below or what Appadurai (2001) calls ‘Deep Democracy’ (Weinstein, 2009; Appadurai, 2001; Neuwirth, 2005). Grass root organizations and NGO’s such as SPARC, Shack & Slum Dwellers international have become global forces and shifting the policy narrative towards partnership with the urban poor.

The ‘world-class city,’ genre in contrast is based on the vision of becoming a world-class city. Skylines of New York and Shanghai fuel the imaginations of the policy makers as well as the general public .


A sense of Deja’vu: Similarities between ‘Slums as a Problem’ and ‘World-class City’


Slums as a Problem

World Class City

Vision Rational Scientific City World Class City
Physical Improvement High rise apartment

(Constructor built)

3-4 story apartments

(Constructor built)

Finances Federal/ central government  Public-private partnership

The vision to create a rational scientific city such as Haussmann’s Paris or Burnham’s White City in Chicago was the driving force behind the ‘slums as a problem’ genre. Planners of this genre were drawn towards the rational scientific city discourse. The unsanitary and disorderly slums were not part of the rational scientific city. Therefore the dominant slum redevelopment policy of this genre, was to demolish slums and replace them with public housing (Pugh, 1995).

Similar to the vision of the ‘slums as a problem’ era, there is a ‘complete seduction’ to be part of the newly emergent global pattern, or be recognized as a world-class city (Mehrotra, 2012). Slums/ slum dwellers are not part of this ‘world class city’ vision and nation wide slum redevelopment policies such as India’s ‘Rajiv Awas Yojana’ envision slum free cities (Mehrotra, 2012).

Second rhetoric common among these genres, is the emphasis on apartment style high-rise buildings for slum dwellers. The high-rise living does not allow for, street level interactions and access to open space, which are critical aspects of social life in slums. As seen during the, ‘slums as a problem’ pursuit of physical upgrading at the cost of social upgrading does not improve the overall quality of life of the urban poor.

The third rhetoric is that of finances, during the ‘slums as a problem’ era, public housing was considered solely the state’s responsibility, which meant huge investments from the central government. The model therefore had limited applicability in the developing world. However, a new financial model of urban development, the public private partnership (PPP) model allows governments to fund large-scale urban renewal programs with little to no investment upfront (Goldman, 2011).

Lessons learned and unlearned

As the rhetoric of the slum free cities is returning to the mainstream policy discourse, it is imperative to revisit and relearn the lessons from the ‘slums as a problem’ genre. In ‘Myth of marginality’ Perlman (1976), documents the economic, social, political and physical impacts of a slum demolition.  Residents of Catacumba slum in Rio were forcibly evicted in 1970’s and placed in public housing at the edge of the city.

One of the positive aspects of the move was improved access to water and sanitation. Which resulted in dramatic health improvements for the residents, especially children. However, the poor quality construction led to leaks and cracks, causing long term maintenance issues for the residents. Economically, the move resulted in a net loss of household income: due to increased cost of transportation, and new expenses such as mortgage, electric, water and other utilities. Social networks of the community were disrupted, resulting in an increased distrust and crime within in the community. After their forcible eviction, the slum dwellers no longer saw the system as benign and lost their political will to participate.

Many of the issues that Perlman reported in 1970’s, such as poor quality construction, lack of public input, ignoring social and cultural values were noticed in the recent slum redevelopment efforts in India (Patel, 2013). Transformation of urban areas is imminent, however previous experiences with slum redevelopment has shown that healthy and inclusive cities can be created only when urban poor are partners in the process of transformation.


Appadurai, A. (2001). Deep Democracy: Urban Governmentality and the Horizon of Politics. Environment and Urbanization , 13 (23), 23-43.

Castells, M. (1983). The city and the grassroots. Cambridge, UK: Blackwell

Davis, M. (2006). Planet of Slums. London: Verson.

Gans, H. J. (1962). The urban villagers: group and class in the life of italian-americans. New york, ny: the free press.

Goldman, M. (2011). Speculating on the next world city. In a. Roy, & a. Ong, worlding cities: asian experiments and the art of being global (pp. 229-250). West sussex: blackwell publishing limited.

Mehrotra, R. (2012) Post-Planning Mumbai In Mostafavi, M, In the life of Cities (333-345) London:Springer.

Neuwirth, R. (2005). Shadow Cities: A Billion Squatters, A New Urban World. New York: Routledge

Patel, S. (2013). Upgrade, Rehouse or Resettle: An Assessment of the Indian Government’s Basic Services for the Urban Poor Programme (BSUP). Environment and Urbanization.

Perlman, J. E. (1976). The Myth of Marginality: Urban Poverty and Politics in Rio de Janeiro. Berkley, CA: University of California Press.

Pugh, C. (1995). The Role of World Bank in Housing, in B. C. Aldrich, & R. S. Sandhu, Housing the Urban Poor: Policy and Practice in Developing Countries (pp. 34-93). London: Zed Books.

Turner, J. F. (1977). Housing by people: towards autonomy in building environments. New york: pantheon books.

Un-habitat. (2010). State of the world’s cities 2010/2011: bridging the urban divide. Earthscan/james & james.

Weinstein, L. (2009). Redeveloping Dharavi: Toward a Political Economy of Slums and Slum Redevelopment in Globalizing Mumbai, PhD Dissertation, University of Chicago.

About the author: Deepika is a PhD student at University of Cincinnati, School of Planning. Her  dissertation research is titled, ‘Resilient Slums: Role of social capital and institutions’ the research is based on field work in slums in  Visakhapatnam, India. She can be contacted 


Landfill Harmonica: Love and creativity in a landfill site

Cateura, Paraguay is a town essentially built on top of a landfill. Garbage collectors browse the trash for sellable goods, and children are often at risk of getting involved with drugs and gangs. When music teacher Fabio set up a music program for the kids of Cateura, they soon have more students than they have instruments.

That changed when Szaran and Fabio were brought something they had never seen before: a violin made out of garbage. Today, there’s an entire orchestra of assembled instruments, now called The Recycled Orchestra.

The film shows how trash and recycled materials can be transformed into beautiful sounding musical instruments, but more importantly, it brings witness to the transformation of precious human beings

State Level Consultation on “Status of Urban Poverty and Possible Ways Forward” – Bihar

A state level consultation on “Status of Urban Poverty and Possible Ways Forward” was organized on 18th December 2013 by PRIA at Patna. The Consultation served as a precursor to discussion on the contribution of the urban poor in the city’s economy and deliberate on possible ways to make our cities inclusive, livable and safe. Findings of the PRIA’s study ‘Contribution of Urban Informal Settlement Dwellers to Urban Economy in India’ was also shared in the consultation which helped in drawing attention of people, policy makers and several other stakeholders on ever neglected issues of urban governance and urban development. It also served as a platform to policy makers, civil society, activists, and citizen leaders to share their experiences and insights to the critical issues and challenges of urban poverty and what possible solutions could be derived.

This consultation witnessed an active participation of multiple stakeholders viz. Mr. Shayam Razak Minister (GOB), Mr. Vijoy Prakash Principal Secretary Planning and Development Dept (GOB), Informal Settlement Dwellers and Elected Representatives from Patna, Bodh Gaya and Biharsharif, representatives from various associations and groups of informal sector workers, CSOs, Activists and Media Houses.

Catch the news clipping below:


Economic Contribution of the Urban Poor

The illegitimate status of our urban poor has generally classified this section of the society as a ‘burden to the city’. However, a recent study by Society for Participatory Research in Asia and Indicus Analytics is an ‘eye-opener’. The study examines and reconfirms the high ‘Economic Contribution of this Urban Poor’, in the city’s GDP. Thereby, contesting that this ‘illegitimate’ child of the city, is significant and respects the same rights and services as its legitimate other.

A primary survey of 50 top cities in India was conducted to achieve the study objective. The survey captured various socio-economic–demographic dimensions of urban informal settlements dwellers in these cities. A total of about 5350 households and about 24500 individuals were covered in the survey. The focus of the questionnaire was to capture information about income–expenditure, employment, nature of job, education, living conditions and the similar information to understand the economic component of their life as well as their standard of living.

Subsequently, a social accounting matrix (SAM) of India was constructed that includes urban informal sector as a component. SAM is the best possible tool that takes into account the inter-linkages among various economic agents within an economy. One of the advantages of SAM is that it can incorporate certain sections of households into a framework whereby the impact of that section on the economy in terms of contribution to income (GDP) as well as the multipliers can be computed, thus allowing precise quantification of the informal settlement population’s contribution to urban economy. In addition, the study also captures the perceptions of non-informal settlement households regarding the role of the target segment of population in a city life. This qualitative analysis provides an understanding of the shadow cost of non-existence of this section of population in the urban centres.

The following are the significant findings of the research study:

  • In the million-plus population cities, nearly 40% of the households live in slums. Five metropolitan cities of the country, namely, Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabad, and Kolkata, account for more than 50% of the total slum households in the country. States such as Delhi and Maharashtra raise concerns as they already have a high slum population and are, according to a recent report by National Building Organization (NBO), expected to face relatively high growth rates in the coming years.
  • The Census of India 2011 shows that about 35% of the slum population does not have access to ‘treated’ tap water from a municipal corporation. More than 25% of the slum dwellers use water from hand pumps, tube wells or some other undefined sources that might be highly hazardous to their health.
  • Maharashtra, Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Delhi show that about 50% of slum dwellers do not have sanitation facilities within house premise. Bihar, Odisha, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh have more than 40% of slum households practicing open-air defecation. This figure is also high for Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.
  • At an all-India level, 36% of slum households do not have three basic facilities, viz., electricity, tap water and sanitation, within the house premises. States such as Bihar, Assam, Chhattisgarh, and Odisha reveal a very sad state of affairs with less than 20% of the slum with these basic amenities.
  • There is a stark difference between facilities available at notified and non-notified slums. Non-notified slums have significantly poorer amenities compared to notified slums
  • The primary survey data suggest that self-employed workers in informal settlements have greater average earning than their counterparts employed as casual labour and even those in regular salaries/wage jobs. However, significant variations are observed across cities. This employment status category might be the repository of much disguised unemployment in informal settlements as seen by the fewer number of months being worked by casual labourers.
  • Informal sector is found to be the most important employment source for informal settlement population in the distributions across livelihood categories. Majority of employed members in informal settlements are in the unskilled service worker category. Among business owners, we see the range of informal sector enterprises that are being run by the residents of informal settlements, most of them as service providers where formal provision is inadequate.
  • Within informal settlements income varies significantly. Though at the lower income level, income and expenditure are almost equal in most cases, the expenditure to earnings ratio of informal settlement households decreases with increase in income. Food is expectedly the most important expenditure category, especially for the lower income households within informal settlements. On an average, expenditure on food is almost half of the total monthly income. Health, education and conveyance also have significant expenditure shares.
  • Debt is quite common among the informal settlement dwellers. However, penetration of banks and microfinance institutions is found to be low.
  • A majority of informal settlement dwellers have lower than middle school education. Income, as expected, increases with higher level of education. Tenure security and housing conditions, which are important indicators of socio-economic status, vary across cities. A sizeable proportion of the informal settlement population is composed of migrants, who are primarily from rural areas, but not necessarily from different states. The migrants were predominantly of the permanent sort who had been living in the city for many years. The motivation for the migration was mostly unemployment or low wages in the place of origin.
  • Large proportion of informal settlement dwellers are in productive age group. Therefore, with better facilities and living condition, increased productivity level of this section of population can boost the economy further.
  • The survey shows that new migrants face difficulties in settling in new cities in terms of various dimensions of daily living. The major problems they face are in terms of rent, access to PDS, access to banking facilities, land tenure facilities
  • Proportion of female earning members and the female work participation is much lower than the male members, which perhaps is an indicator of gender inequality in availing employment opportunities.
  • Through constructing SAM including informal sector dwellers as an economic agent, the study has captured direct, indirect and induced impact of activities (related to both production and consumption) of informal settlement dwellers on urban economy.
  • GDP multiplier of informal settlement dwellers is 1.4, which in simple words suggests that because of one extra unit of increase income by informal settlement households, total of 1.4 units of GDP will be experienced as total impact (including direct, indirect and induced).
  • Assuming that urban GDP is about 60% of total GDP, the total contribution of informal settlement dwellers to urban GDP of India is 7.53%.
  • Total output multiplier for economic sectors is 2.90. This suggests that an injection of one additional unit of demand from informal settlement households will result in an additional output generation of 2.90 units in the economy.
  • Total household income multiplier of informal settlement dwellers is 2.0. This suggests that an injection of one additional unit of demand from informal settlement households will result in an additional household income generation of 2.0 units in the economy.
  • In case of most of the production sectors, urban informal settlement households show a higher multiplier than rest of the urban households. Education is the only sector where multiplier is higher for rest of the urban households than informal sector households.
  • The probable reason for higher multiplier for urban informal sector is that because of aspirations to catch up with urban lifestyle, any extra income of urban informal settlement dwellers is converted to consumption and savings are scarce. On the other hand, in case of non-informal settlement dwellers in urban areas, additional income is generally converted into savings. Thus consumption propensity of urban informal settlement dwellers for any additional unit of income is higher than non-informal settlement dwellers.
  • About 40% of the non-informal settlement urban sample households think that their daily life will be affected adversely if the informal settlements and the people living there are removed

The study suggests that informal settlement dwellers play positive roles in urban economy as well as urban life apart from a few known adverse roles. Their contribution to urban GDP, and some of the “difficult to replace” nature of jobs they are engaged in, makes them an integral productive economic agent of the urban economy. Based on the Census of India 2011 data, as well as primary survey data of informal settlements of 50 cities, the study also suggests that a large proportion of the households do not even have access to the basic facilities. As the services provided to this section of population are often considered as favour to the community rather than their basic right, the approach and attitude of the authorities needs to be re-examined.

Download the entire study at :

Share your comments, observations and suggestions at Terra Urban!

People’s Participation in Planning Mumbai?: Hussain Indorewala and Shweta Wagh

KAFILA - 10 years of a common journey

This is a guest post by Hussain Indorewala and Shweta Wagh

Since the past six months in Mumbai, there has been an unusual convergence between urban activists, community groups, rights groups, unions, Non-Governmental Organizations and academics, who have come together to provide a theoretical critique of the city’s neoliberal development model, to formulate a more diverse and hopeful vision for the city than the one proclaimed by its power elite, and to present practical alternatives to plans and projects promulgated by faceless state bureaucracies and unaccountable private consultants.

On 22nd October 2013, more than 1500 people gathered at Azad Maidan to formally present “The People’s Vision Document for Mumbai’s Development Plan (2014-2034)” to the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM).[1] The People’s Vision Document (PVD)[2] is a remarkable collective vision statement, an outcome of discussions focused around specific issues in the city with more than a hundred grassroots…

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The Mumbai Development Plan: A Politics of Representation

{FAVEL issues}

The Development Plan (DP) of Mumbai is a statutory document that lays out important parameters of growth in the city, such as land use and Development Control Regulations (DCR). This plan is comprehensively reviewed once in 20 years; currently, the DP 2014-34 is under review, scheduled to come into effect over the next year. In this day and age of technology access, this plan is very different from all other plans.

The municipal corporation and the team of consultants hired have taken great efforts to make data available and visible to people. It is common knowledge that a lot of data used in the map is secondary data available in the public domain, however, what the DP does for the first time, is it links the data to the land use plan using Geographic Information Systems (GIS), geo-coding quantitative data to a physical map. Based on these analyses a comprehensive…

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Friends with benefits!

Delhi went to Vote today. Slum dwellers might have gone to repay the ‘gifts’ and ‘benefits’ received in last few days attached with string of promises, may be only to face coming years where no gift or right of any kind shall come their way.

Politics clearly plays with slum dwellers. From freely circulating liquor bottles, cash and deals struck with local goons of the slums, electoral politics first battle field are the large vote bank of slum dwellers. Interestingly, as one of slum dweller mentioned in the dialogue organised by PRIA for Strengthening Civil Society Voices on Urban Poverty, last week – Some of the Delhi slums have even lost their fate to be ‘resettled’ in already built houses – just in case the large vote bank of 3000 people is lost from one ward to another, in this crucial moment.

Urban development therefore only lives five year tenure in most cities. Mayor of the city approved many projects in his term, least affected by how the city shall ever fund or implement these. After all it’s not his headache. Local MLA and ward counsellors have a strong hold on all the slums in their constituency and in most cases benefit by slums remaining as slums and even growing. Twined in this electoral politics the rights of the citizens like water, electricity, sewage are often given as acts of patronage. The most profound right – of ownership – is held back till the end, ensuring a near total dependence on the political establishment.

Slum dwellers are also one step ahead. At the peak election times, each slum dweller mastered by some local goon puts a price to its vote… oh ever so precious vote. Politics and slums – Friends with benefits, and no strings attached!