The seminar examined current slum upgrading projects in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Ambassador Björk-Klevby alluded to the significance of the year 2007 – the historic turning point marking the fact that for the first time in history, half of humanity is now living in towns and cities. It also marks the halfway point for achieving the Millennium Development Goals agreed by world leaders in the year 2000.
Mr. Thapan spoke of the importance of addressing the approaches across regional areas for meeting the water and sanitation needs of the poor.
The seminar opened with a short film, “Unheard Voices of Women” on the challenges faced by women and girls in Dar-es-Salaam (Tanzania), Alwar (India) and Rio-de-Janeiro (Brazil) with emphasis on issues of dignity and health.
In his keynote address, Dr H S Anand, Secretary, Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, Government of India, put forward the Indian perspective and emphasised the need for eco-friendly development. He elaborated on the multiple approaches to slum upgrading in India and the need for addressing issues of tenure; microfinance initiatives; social development inputs for facilitating participation; extending health and education services; and for supporting better livelihoods.
Approaches to improving living conditions of slum dwellers
In-situ upgrading of small settlements where occupants have a right of occupation or relocation;
Relocation of slum residents from hazardous and untenable sites, for instance near railway tracks, to walk-up apartments;
In-situ redevelopment and housing construction in medium sized slums with private sector involvement through incentives;
In-situ redevelopment and housing construction through a transparent process in very large slums with private sector involvement, e.g. Dharavi slum in Mumbai which has around 60,000 dwelling units;
Inner city redevelopment; and
Clustering of services for low-density settlements in peri-urban areas.
Mr. Tirop Kosgey, Permanent Secretary from the Ministry of Housing in Kenya described, in general, the situation of slums in Nairobi and the Kenya Slum Upgrading Programme undertaken in the slum of Kibera. Based on the very little progress made by various agencies in upgrading of this large slum, which spreads over 250 hectares of land, Mr Kosgey described the structure established by Government of Kenya for a coordinated approach to the slum upgrading process. Many players are involved in improving slums. But their actions are not always coordinated and he observed that, even after many years of small interventions, there was no significant change in the conditions of the overcrowded Kibera slum in the capital Nairobi, he said.
The need for addressing problems of medium sized and metropolitan cities besides the inequalities amongst countries, regions and within cities were identified by Ms. Cecilia Martinez Leal, from Mexico. Citing examples, she described the impact of economic activities on getting proper understanding of situations at the local level. She cautioned participants about pitfalls in reclassifying the poor (as the poorest of the poor), and the need for local governments to work together for enabling access to water supply and sanitation to slum areas that ‘overflow’ from one urban territory into another. She also highlighted the greater focus on Africa and Asia, and limited attention to the experiences of urbanization in Latin America and the Caribbean region. In summary, she recommended the need for building capacity of local governments to work with others and of integrating communities with action planning processes in cities so that it becomes an integral part of the urban planning and development process.
Mr. Andre Dzikus, of UN-HABITAT’s Water for Asian Cities Programme, cited examples to give an overview of the value choices made over forty years by development specialists. He identified three barriers to sustainable access of the poor to water supply and sanitation that were identified in the mid-term review of UN-HABITAT’s Water Supply and Sanitation Trust Fund. The three barriers include a) the absence of processes, models and techniques; b) high levels of unaccounted water; and c) failure to use community systems for management of water supply and sanitation assets and systems. Citing examples of assessing technical options in Indonesia, poverty mapping in Indore-India, and community managed water supply schemes in Nepal, Mr Dzikus emphasised the need for a paradigm shift to an urban management model and partnerships between local governments and community groups, and of community participation.
Describing examples good practices and Asia Development Bank experience in Metro Manila, Phnom-Penh in Cambodia, Kathmandu in Nepal, and Indonesia, Mr Thapan highlighted the inability of Governments to reach the poor who paid exorbitant rates for access to water through vendors and tankers. He reiterated the need for working with local communities, for development-oriented institutions to take an active rather than a reactive approach, and developing strategies for future development in emerging economies.
Mr. Jockin Arputham, President of the National Slum Dwellers Federation-India was the only community representative who spoke at the seminar. Recalling his own journey to the city of Mumbai, finding accommodation in a slum and related demolitions as well as relocation, he narrated experiences of many slum residents. He further drew the attention of the participants to the lack of action on the ground in sharp contrast to the high frequency and costs of visits by donor agency representatives ‘in white cars’ and/or the numerous meetings and events held for planning projects. This viewpoint from the ground reflected frequently heard complaints of many slum residents, local governments and other stakeholders in the field.
These observations were complemented later by a representative of the African Development Bank who revealed that while there was a lot of talk on issues of water and sanitation, these were not identified as priorities in the National Poverty Reduction Strategies. Mr Arputham highlighted the progress made in construction of toilets, housing and relocation of slum dwellers from untenable sites through the involvement of the SPARC Alliance and the Slum/Shack Dwellers International (SDI) in India and across 28 countries in Africa and Asia. In describing the non-functioning of lifts in 281 buildings at a relocation site, Mr Arputham introduced the problems of poor maintenance and sustainability of relocation sites. In summing up, Mr Arputham emphasised the need for specific guidelines for enabling people’s participation and of annual reviews to assess progress made in meeting the housing, water and sanitation needs of the poor.
Mr. Michael Mutter of UN-HABITAT Slum Upgrading Facility provided an overview of the initiative in Sri Lanka, especially the involvement of the Women’s Savings Bank Federation and the SDI in the initiative.
The presentations and discussions provided an overview of the different approaches initiated for slum upgrading and slum redevelopment within cities and in peri -urban areas. The specific areas requiring greater attention were identified as need for attention to sanitation; engaging decision-makers like Heads of State and Finance Ministers for greater political leadership rather than only sector-specific decision-makers; and incorporating the planning and implementation of water and sanitation infrastructure in areas where the poor live with citywide development interventions. The perspective of women involved in facilitating slum upgrading at the implementation level, or in planning development initiatives for the poor was lacking at the seminar. During discussions, participants identified other areas requiring greater attention as:
- The implications of lack of access to water and sanitation facilities on the health and rights of women and children, livelihoods and the environment.
- The need for specific guidelines for enabling participation of slum residents in decision making, implementation and monitoring of projects for slum upgrading, followed by annual reviews to see what has been achieved.
- The need for looking at sanitation with an ecological perspective, especially in higher density areas so that the load for sewage treatment is reduced.
The need for more attention to monitor functional access to water supply and sanitation was identified because of the many ways in which governments measure access.
- The centrality for the involvement of local governments in enabling sustainable access to water supply and sanitation was highlighted with the example of experiences in Indonesia where community driven development resulted in money was going straight to Community Based Organizations and the lack of involvement of the local governments.
- The role of slum lords, who create obstacles in undertaking slum upgrading and who play a role in making the improved areas unaffordable to the poor through increase in rents after upgrading
- The main responsibility for commitment to the poor is of the Governments and not donors if good ideas are to be followed up.