by Ian Morley
"Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." This definition was written 20 years ago in the Brundtland Report, commissioned by the United Nations. Since then, the goal of sustainable urban development has been embraced, in theory, by many officials and design professionals all over the world. But examples of meeting today's needs seem limited to the more prosperous segments of society. Living conditions today in the slums of many of the world's largest cities are appalling, and not improving. — Editor
The Tondo, a district of the Philippine capital city Manila (population 11.3 million in 2005), is similar in its working class culture to areas of other large metropolises. Yet the Tondo, with its roughly 600,000 residents, presents extremes in density, poverty, and inadequate housing.
The Tondo's population density is more than ten times that of Hong Kong. This fact is especially astonishing because the slum's urban form is low rise and not vertical.
The living conditions and life within the Tondo have been characterized by Cambridge University's Simon Szreter as the "4 Ds": disruption, deprivation, disease, and death. Sadly, this situation is commonplace in many cities of the developing world that have experienced rapid urban growth in the past few decades, just as it once was in 19th-century Europe and North America.
UN-Habitat, the United Nations' agency for human settlements, has estimated that the present global slum population — a "Fourth World" of those economically and socially isolated from modernity and a decent quality of life — is more than one billion. If present urban growth patterns continue, the global slum population will double by 2030.
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Few local citizens are employed within the office buildings that coexist with slums in the Tondo District of Manila. A child sits on a piece of polystyrene trying to retrieve resellable plastic from the river.
Photo: Ian Morley
Slum houses in the Tondo challenge governmental efforts toward sustainability.
Photo: Ian Morley
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