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< prev - next > Social and economic development Social Development KnO 100680_Sustainable Slum Upgrading (Printable PDF)
Sustainable slum upgrading
Practical Action
even if their service provision is low. Perhaps their elasticity is high because their service
provision is low. If people have a higher service provision they will develop an increased reliance
and so have lower elasticity, as is common in more developed communities. In the west where
many international development professionals originate, the populations are less able to respond
to such a situation and would consider it a crisis. Reliable service provision is expected to be
provided in many western communities, but the priorities of developing communities are more
basic. Where the next meal is coming from and educating future generations is often of more
concern than service provision.
Many people choose to live in a slum. People with reasonable incomes reside in slums for a
variety of reasons. Taking advantage of the informal economy and tax evasion in an informal
settlement enables people to generate middle-class incomes that they might not have done
otherwise. Slum-dwellers also benefit from low or no housing rent, subsidised services and
charity. For some people, sitting outside formal government structures is advantageous. However,
despite comfortable incomes, many slum-dwellers do not value middle-class lifestyles. In India
in particular people are often less materialistic than in the west. Many believe in the notion of
Karma or Samsara and reincarnation, and willingly accept the standard of living that god has
given them in this life, holding the belief that if they do their best with their situation, their next
life will be better. In Kenya, many see their current situation in Kibera (Nairobi’s largest slum) as
an interim stage and an advantageous opportunity allowing them to get work from the city with
the plan that they will return to their villages to retire. For many, home is considered to be the
village. Therefore life in Kibera is a good opportunity to make the most of, not the desperate
situation that many outsiders see on the surface. People’s priorities in the slums are not the
same as those in the developed world. Therefore international development organisations should
remain sensitive to the pragmatic advantages of being a slum-dweller. However, despite the
positives of living in a slum, residents still have to struggle with a desperate daily life overcoming
issues such as crime, abuse, prostitution, poor healthcare etc. Many people live hand to mouth
and are exploited because of their situation.
Community cohesion
International development organisations
should not impose the assumption that
slum-dwellers always aspire to a particular
lifestyle or physical living condition.
Although materially they may appear to be
living in poverty, spiritually they may in fact
be very rich, something which is often
overlooked by outsiders. One of the defining
characteristics of a slum (as defined by
international development organisations) is
overcrowding. Research has found that
slum-dwellers do not consider crowding a
priority issue to be resolved (Cronin 2011,
Hasan 2010). Community cohesion tends
to be more important for residents in
informal settlements. Such communities
live together following a way of life that is
often alien to those in the developed world.
For example, in India generations reside
together as joint families and the idea of
Figure 2: Courtyard spaces aid social cohesion
for new housing at Hadapsar, Pune, India.
putting an elderly relative in a care home or
a newly married couple setting up a
separate home together is considered
strange. Westerners often live a more
isolated lifestyle where it is not unusual to have never met one’s neighbours, something unheard
of in informal settlements where communities support each other in a very positive way.