Page B1.1 . 21 August 2002                     
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    Improving Urban Shantytowns

    by Sarosh Anklesaria

    Over one fourth of the urban population of India today lives in slums, under inhumane conditions. These shantytowns, common to many cities of the developing world, are characterized by low-quality housing and lack of physical infrastructure. With little access to clean drinking water and sanitation, the inhabitants face a constant threat of disease.

    Yet within some Indian slums a quiet revolution is taking place. The "Slum Networking Program" was pioneered by Cambridge graduate and civil engineer Himanshu Parikh,whose interest in the environment and habitat led him to challenge conventional "solutions" to slum development.

    Parikh's concept of improving slums by starting with the infrastructure was first successfully demonstrated in the Indore Habitat Project. That success has led to the idea spreading to other Indian cities Ahmedabad, Baroda, Mumbai, Bhopal and now also to villages and to other countries.

    How Slums Develop

    In a typical slum in urban India, houses are built of mud and plastic sheets, though occasionally of brick. Streets and alleys are often no more than seven feet (two meters) wide and double as open sewers. Despite these conditions, the slum population of India doubles every ten years.

    The inhabitants are often migrants from neighboring villages who come to the cities in search of jobs and a higher standard of living. But the acute housing shortage forces them to be squatters in conditions worse than their home villages. Although many of them are employed in factories, cottage industries, or their own small businesses they do not invest in their housing because the squatter settlements are illegal and could be demolished at any moment.   >>>

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    Before the Slum Networking Project, the rivers Khan and Saraswati in Indore, India had been reduced to open sewers.
    Photo: Indore Development Authority

    ArchWeek Image

    The river and its surrounds after Slum Networking in Indore. New pedestrian pathways and gardens make the river bed a major recreational area.
    Photo: Indore Development Authority

     

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