June 13, 2007

The Slums: A Boom in Urban Poor Defies Solutions

Experts predict that by 2030 two billion people will live in urban squatter and slum communities with no services, sanitation or running water.

The growth of slums and economic disparaties are spurring poitical debate and legal crackdowns, even as new social movements emerge within the communities themselves.

Forbes.com reports that today 80 percent of Nigerians — that’s more than 40 million people — live in slums, as do 158 million Indians, or 56 percent of the population.

The Economic Times in India puts that sum closer to 70 million, accounting for 45 percent of Delhi’s population, and more than 50 percent of Mumbai’s.

In an editorial, the newspaper says that the huge influx of rural poor to cities has changed voting patterns, which are now divided along economic rather than caste lines.

It also said that legitimizing illegal land claims will only worsen the problem by encouraging more squatting, and that the government should instead offer affordable housing and increase economic opportunity in rural areas.

Forbes writer Elisabeth Eaves notes that reformist and religious movements, drug gangs and fundamentalist militants such as Hamas have all emerged from slums, even as social and environmental problems deepen.

In Brazil, favelas outside of Sao Paulo cluster around a stream that feeds one of the city’s primary reservoirs, polluting water supplies with raw sewage.

A move to turn the stream into a covered, underground channel will likely result in the mass eviction of those living around the watershed, many of whom moved there from within Sao Paulo proper after being displaced by gentrification.

In Cleveland, Ohio, as many as 4,000 people are homeless on a given night — more than twice the number of shelter beds available — and a tent city there balances between a court precedent supporting squatters’ rights and a push to ban panhandling and spur construction and development.

Critics say assault and other crimes against the homeless are on the rise, even as college students hand out tents and mattresses, the Cleveland Free Times reports.

Other advocacy groups there seek to remove the homeless from local public spaces, including a secluded highway underpass the city wants to use as a fee-for-service parking lot.

Sources:

“Two billion slum dwellers”
Forbes.com, June 11, 2007

“Why slum rehabilitation is good money chasing bad”
The Economic Times (India), june 12, 2007

“BRAZIL: Water sources threatened by lack of low-cost housing, sanitation”
Inter Press Service, June 8, 2007

“We can still see you”
The Cleveland Free Times (Ohio), June 13, 2007

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