urban-slumsPhoto credit: Sustainable sanitation via Foter.com / CC BY

Housing is a critical and one of the major challenges being faced by the marginalized communities and the poor in urban areas. Almost all the big cities of the world face this problem which is going to exaggerate multi folds in near future due to ongoing and future trends of massive urbanization expected by 2050 especially in the emerging economies of Asia and Africa. Shanty towns, slums, informal settlements etc. are many names for the inhuman housing conditions in which the urban poor lives a pathetic life

But

 

Why do they need to live like that?

Did nobody anticipate the housing needs for poor in the city planning?

Is it because of the unaccounted migration to big cities?

Where are the Govt. policies and schemes to counter such imbalance of housing supply and demand?

How can such a large section of urban population be deprived of something as basic as shelter?

Is housing a part of basic needs only or is it a basic right which any potent State must ensure to or which can be demanded by all its citizens?

Can we qualify these people as equal humans or they are humans but other affluent city dwellers are more equal?

Why does no developer take initiatives to build homes for urban poor?

Is it because of the lack of Govt. regulations over soaring land prices which simply makes low cost housing for poor an unprofitable project?

If it’s not profitable to build housing for poor is it sustainable for developers to keep on building housing for middle class and rich even if the demand has saturated and for how long?

Isn’t such housing misadventures have recently taken us to housing bubble and global economic crisis in 2008?

Where are the billions of dollars research for low cost materials and why they are not being promoted to market practices?

What about the environmental sustainability aspect of housing for people of limited means?

What about the loss of healthy childhood of children growing in such slums?

How to manage the waste and sanitation of such shanty towns? Or are these areas itself a dump yard where waste of rich living in nearby gated communities can be thrown?

How do they manage their sewage or waste water?

What about the storm water drainage and rain water harvesting?

Can we design slums where we can conserve rain water falling on their roof tops, recycle their waste and put them on solar grid?

What about the land rights of these communities or so called encroachers?

What made them to capture these land portions? Why didn’t they buy it like other gentlemen? Why their incomes are so meager to buy or lease a legal urban property?

Why are they migrating from low tier cities or rural areas to settle in big cities? Why they don’t utilize opportunities back home if at all present?

How can we strengthen rural economies and dilute the push factor?

Who are giving them political patronage? Who are creating small informal economies in which these slums operate?

Why are these politically motivated people giving them subsidized or freebies like water, electricity, micro loans? Yes they are building vote banks but are they really that bad people?

Do we really need poor or middle class people in our cities or not? Can technology substitute all the work that they were doing at present?

What is the way forward?  Can we design slums at all or they are supposed to grow unregulated like the way it is? Can we give shape to this organic growth?

How to tackle the current scenario? How to deal with the monster of future urbanization expected by 2050?

How to design such settlements so beautifully that it becomes an urban artifact not an eyesore?

How to empower the marginalized people living here so that they participate not only in the decision making of their housing but also in the overall planning of their cities?

What banking reforms are needed to infuse financial capital need to undertake such low cost housing projects?

How to eradicate the corruption prevalent under the name of state sponsored welfare schemes?

What should be the art, craft and thought expression of such colonies?

 

This is just a beginning and lot more needs to be asked and answered…

Best way to tackle any public challenge is to embrace the problem by understanding it and that too very substantially and collectively as a society to build consensus over strategies but not imposed solutions by few intellectual geeks. Emergent technologies like information architecture and simulation which treats any city like a growing bio-organism gives hope to a very promising and controlled future development. Housing as a problem was always there and but that doesn’t qualifies it to be an insurmountable problem for humans who have reached moon and mars.

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