GLASGOW (IPS) - South African women living in squatter settlements build new homes, about 18,000 of them. Tens of thousands of new homes and many new police stations are coming up in Bombay slums. Neither is the result of a government programme, or of some kindly NGO. At both places local people have combined with government agencies in bold new ways to improve their homes and their lives. And this is the way David Satterthwaite, a leading expert on city environment at the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) says cities need to develop.
At both places local people have combined with government agencies in bold new ways to improve their homes and their lives. And this is the way David Satterthwaite, a leading expert on city environment at the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) says cities need to develop.
Thirty years back experts had gathered in Vancouver in Canada to consider the challenges by urbanisation. They met again this week to see what has not worked -- because a lot has not.
"In 1976, governments formally committed themselves to work with those living in slums and squatter settlements to improve conditions and to ensure universal provision for water and sanitation," Satterthwaite told IPS in an email interview. "But the number of people living in such settlements has more than tripled since. In 2006, far more urban (and rural) dwellers lack good provision for water and sanitation than they did in 1976."
The time has come now to confront some new truths, and to discard some old myths, Satterthwaite said. "In 1976, the need for governments to work with their ’squatter citizens’ was stressed but not much practised. Squatter leaders were there, but most spoke of their struggle to avoid eviction and none were allowed to speak at the official government sessions."
This year has brought a new truth -- the solutions offered by partnerships between governments and those living in slums and squatter settlements, he says.
The number of slum dwellers whose living conditions need to get better is huge.
"There are no precise figures for this, in part because each government has different definitions for what is a ’slum’, which makes international comparisons difficult," Satterthwaite said. "The number of urban dwellers living in poor quality, overcrowded housing that usually lacks adequate provision for water and sanitation is around 900 million worldwide."
India and China have the largest number of people living in such housing. There are inevitably fewer slum dwellers in rich countries, but developing countries have handled this problem too. Porto Alegre in Brazil has a long history of inno