Improve conditions

Efforts by India and China to deal with urban squalor and slums seem to be bearing fruit. The latest UN-Habitat report, ‘State of the World Cities 2010/2011: Bridging the Urban Divide’, has commended them for improving living conditions of millions of urban people living in slums. The report has pointed out that the proportion of people living in slum conditions has dropped from 41.5 per cent in 1990 to 28.1 per cent in 2010 in India and from 37.3 per cent in 2000 to 28.2 per cent in 2010 in China. Almost 60 million people have moved out of slum like conditions in India. This is heartening. However, the situation globally and in these countries in terms of absolute numbers is far from satisfactory. The report points out that the absolute number of slum dwellers in the world increased from 776.7 million to about 827.6 million in the 2000-2010 period. It warns that unless drastic measures are adopted, the world slum population could grow by six million each year to touch a total of 889 million by 2020.

Slum populations are growing because migration from cities is happening at a very high rate. The agrarian crisis in rural India today is forcing millions to move to cities in the hope of finding jobs. But these do not exist. They end up in slums, adding pressure to their already fragile infrastructure. If the problem of growing slum populations should be addressed, we need to tackle the agrarian crisis.

Urban authorities have often tackled the problem of slums by simply demolishing them. In the name of ridding cities of these ‘eyesores’, slum residents are chased out to the city’s outskirts and the land on which the slum once stood is grabbed by real estate developers. Removal of slums in this manner is inhumane as it triggers homelessness and other problems. Relocation of people who are already poor deals a severe blow to their economic security. Instead civic authorities should improve the condition in the slums and make them more liveable. This can be done by improving water supply and drainage in slums. Better sanitation and water will improve us tackle an array of issues such as public health. Gastroenteritis, malaria and a whole host of diseases that visit our cities during summer and when the rains come can be avoided. The frequency of riots, which often break out in slums over scarce resources like water, can be reduced too.

Liked the story?

  • 0

    Happy
  • 0

    Amused
  • 0

    Sad
  • 0

    Frustrated
  • 0

    Angry