The poorest and most marginalized people in cities are often understood to be those living in the worst forms of shelter or with none at all. They are labelled the "homeless", the "destitute" and the "extreme poor". Based on ethnographic research in Dhaka, Bangladesh, this article challenges this association, arguing that living in the worst conditions can enable people to earn, save, and invest in lives and livelihoods elsewhere. Their capacity to do so is generally related to the urban potential for creating "defiled surpluses", resources that can be productively exploited but at the cost of an association with the defiled. These costs and opportunities are not however equally distributed, and recognizing this helps us to understand the nature of micro-inequalities. In Dhaka the presence of people living on pavements and in markets, parks and transport terminals can represent destitution, but also the astute negotiation of the city.
We project populations to 2100 for the world’s larger cities. Three socioeconomic scenarios with various levels of sustainability and global cooperation are evaluated, and individual "best fit" projections made for each city using global urbanization forecasts. In 2010, 757 million people resided in the 101 largest cities – 11 per cent of the world’s population. By the end of the century, world population is projected to range from 6.9 billion to 13.1 billion, with 15 per cent to 23 per cent of people residing in the 101 largest cities (1.6 billion to 2.3 billion). The disparate effects of socioeconomic pathways on regional distribution of the world’s 101 largest cities in the 21st century are examined by changes in population rank for 2010, 2025, 2050, 2075 and 2100. Socioeconomic pathways are assessed based on their influence on the world’s largest cities. Two aspects of the projections raise concerns about reliability: the unlikely degree of growth of cities suggested for Africa and the growth of cities in coastal settings (and likely global immigration). Trends and the effect of sustainable development on regional distribution of large cities throughout the 21st century are discussed.
Studies on the implications of population density on energy consumption in small and medium-sized cities in low- and middle-income countries are limited. This paper estimates and analyses energy consumption, using a diverse set of methods, to compare two medium-sized cities in Thailand with similar urban forms and socioeconomic characteristics but different population densities – namely, the less dense city Chaiyaphum and denser city Roi Et. The results reveal that the annual household electricity consumption per capita of these two cities is similar, showing no implications of density. However, private transport energy consumption per capita in Chaiyaphum is 22 per cent higher, supporting the hypothesis that a less dense city will have higher transport energy consumption. The key factor identified is the greater distance travelled by households located in the peri-urban areas in the less dense city. This has important policy implications for urban planning and urban development practices in Thailand.
The 2016 Habitat III conference in Quito provides a challenging opportunity to address widespread, persistent urban gender inequalities through the elaboration of a New Urban Agenda (NUA). To achieve the identified radical paradigm shift calls for critical reflection and clarification of the meaning of gender transformation as against gender mainstreaming, and the elaboration of a conceptual and operational framework that identifies urban pathways not only to empower individual women but also to collectively transform fundamental gender power relations. This paper describes the gender asset accumulation framework as one such approach, and identifies the existing evidence base on urban transformative gendered interventions in land tenure and housing, safety in public spaces, and informal economy activities. In assessing gender-related contributions to the Habitat III process, it highlights a conjuncture in the identification of the same three gender-transformative interventions in the Transformative Commitments section of the Zero Draft NUA. However, these have been diluted in the Revised Zero Draft, which does not create optimism for the final NUA. The paper concludes by suggesting that a potential strategy for the global urban gender networks and multiple voices of civil society and grassroots groups is to reach a consensus on a priority agenda, and post-Quito to collectively contest and negotiate its implementation.
Economic and societal costs of the urban heat island are considered through the marginal effect of temperature increase on device efficiency and lifespan. Urbanization is virtually synonymous with the mechanization of human comfort systems, and the efficiency of these systems is subject to degradation from the urban heat island. The simplest way to model this degradation is an application of ideal device efficiencies, and the results of such an analysis are presented and considered in this paper. The magnitude of these costs and their avoidance or potential mitigation avenues are the principal topics of the work, and the technical underpinnings of the approach are presented in supplementary material available online. The self-reinforcing nature and economic scale of the urban heat island effect are thus approached from the first principles of thermodynamics and available data on relevant devices and systems. A global perspective on the phenomenon is presented, followed by a case study of the Phoenix, Arizona (US) metropolitan area to demonstrate the scale of these effects. This analysis synthesizes thermodynamic and economic approaches to the health and policy issues of the urban heat island, with particular consideration given to planning for minimization of these effects in low- and middle-income urban areas. This study first estimates the costs borne today by large urban centres, then highlights some of the risks that secondary cities will eventually face – and could potentially mitigate – as they undergo rapid growth and densification.
This paper synthesizes recent research and evidence on urban policies and local government practices as they relate to street vending, one of the most visible occupations in the informal economy. It presents the latest available evidence on the size, composition and contribution of street vending, and reviews the rich literature on street vending as well as media coverage reflecting the extent of exclusionary policies and practices. While many analyses explore the reasons behind evictions and relocations through case studies, this paper draws on participatory methods and surveys to examine the more "everyday" challenges that street vendors face, even when licensed. The data demonstrate the livelihood impacts of generalized workplace insecurity, harassment and confiscation of merchandise on street vendors’ earnings, assets and time. We briefly explore the models of organizing and policy approaches in Ahmedabad, India and Lima, Peru, where collective action among vendors has resulted in more innovative policy approaches. We argue that legislative reform and greater transparency in the content and implementation of regulations are needed, combined with the political will to challenge the appropriation of strategic urban spaces by more powerful interests.
This work draws from preliminary ethnographic research with a fisherwomen’s association in Udupi City, located on the southwestern coast of India. It shows how women have managed to keep capital-rich fish shops away from the sale of fish, preserving their traditional occupation for themselves through informal arrangements with the state. In the Indian context, in which caste remains an important organizing element within a secular framework of democracy and citizenship, I look at how women rely on their caste identities as Mogaveera fisherwomen, while simultaneously referring to their gender and experience of poverty to muster both caste-based political support and secular political resources for their livelihoods. Intersectionality as a concept for analysis is important to understand how both marginal and dominant identities of these women enable them to frame and formulate arguments that are acceptable to the state. I argue that in this particular case, gender, intertwined with caste and poverty, positions these fisherwomen in a fertile space for political alliances that tap into both caste and secular resources. These nuances enable us to see fisherwomen as a complex, heterogeneous group full of contradictions, rather than just poor fisherwomen. Thus, an analysis of gender as intertwined with experiences deriving from other social categories of caste and class allows us to see women’s livelihoods as a product of, as well as formative of, those specific experiences, opportunities and constraints they confront.
Despite the growth of adaptation plans and action by municipalities, there are limited examples of opportunities for effectively mainstreaming climate adaptation into policy and practice in local government. This paper uses the experiment of co-producing an adaptation plan for a small municipality in the Western Cape Province, South Africa, to illustrate how opportunities were leveraged. The findings suggest that a shift from strengthening the science–policy interface to the knowledge–policy interface might be more appropriate in the context of adaptation planning that requires an understanding of the local context as well as of global science. In order to align adaptation plans with developmental priorities and to secure support from actors at multiple levels, the integration of multiple knowledge forms, including climate science, should be prioritized. Such a task could be strengthened if co-production is prioritized. Building on these opportunities is critical to scaling up adaptation in local government and building on its transformative potential.
Technology is a key driver of change, not least in the world of work. Yet little is known about what technologies are used by – or impact on – the working poor in the informal economy, and in what ways. This paper presents findings from a 2015 study by the WIEGO network and local partners in three cities: Ahmedabad, India; Durban, South Africa; and Lima, Peru. The findings reveal that informal workers in the study cities are using diverse tools, from manual devices to electrical equipment and internet platforms, to strengthen their livelihoods. Overall, the tools used tend to be basic. Often they are being adapted in ingenious ways in order to adapt to resource and other constraints. Take-up of improved tools is limited by low incomes and concerns about theft and confiscation. It is also affected by city-level, context-specific systems of energy, transport and waste. This paper summarizes which types of technologies are most useful to different sectors of informal workers. It argues that the policy and regulatory environment, and city-wide technological systems, should be more responsive to the technological and other needs of the urban informal workforce.
The occupation of waste picker has taken on new importance as a livelihood, especially since the last global economic downturn. Increasingly, waste pickers are being recognized for their valuable contributions to urban sustainability and development. Drawing from scholarship on waste pickers, and findings from a recent study conducted in five cities across three continents, this paper discusses the environmental and economic contributions of informal waste pickers to cities. This paper argues for the re-conceptualization of solid waste management systems that integrate waste pickers as partners, as key to building just, inclusive and livable cities for all. It also presents a specific model in which informal waste workers are integrated as key stakeholders as one example of best practice in this area, thus contributing to current discussions on integrated and inclusive solid waste models.
This paper explores the impact of local government policies and urban plans on home-based workers. It presents recent national data on the size and composition of home-based work in developing countries as well as findings from two recent field studies of urban home-based workers in several Asian cities/countries. The research findings highlight that homes often double as workplaces, especially for women workers, and that slums are domains of significant economic activities. Reflecting these twin facts, as well as the demands of home-based workers, the paper makes the case that city governments and urban planners need to integrate home-based workers and their livelihood activities into local economic development plans. It also argues that city governments need to extend basic infrastructure to the homes-cum-workplaces of home-based workers, as well as transport services to the settlements where they live and work. The paper provides some promising examples of where and how this has been done, largely in response to effective advocacy by organizations of home-based workers.
The youth employment crisis in sub-Saharan Africa’s towns and cities is among the region’s top development priorities. High rates of youth under- and unemployment create significant obstacles to young people’s ability to become self-reliant, a crucial first step in the transition to adulthood. It is important to explore how local and global structures and processes create the hostile economic and social environment in which urban youth search for livelihoods. Only then can we identify the ways in which urban poverty brings insurmountable constraints on youth agency. We must understand the multitude of obstacles facing urban youth in their quest for decent work and secure livelihoods, how these differ by gender and educational status, and the implications of this for their longer-term social and economic development. This paper attempts such an exploration in the context of Arusha, Tanzania.
Chinese cities have undergone a process of urbanization that has resulted in significant urban sprawl in the past 20 years. This paper uses the "ecology of actors" framework to analyse the interactions among various state, market and civil society players that result in excessive land conversion from agricultural to urban use. The paper shows that under the existing institutional settings, the interests of most actors involved in the process are aligned towards greater land development and growth. The more land is developed, the more land lease revenue for the local government, the more profit for developers, and the more opportunities for compensation for farmers. Planners have been powerless to apply long-term planning principles. There is a need to change the underlying rules of the game so that environmental impacts of land conversion are fully taken into account in the future economic calculations of actors involved in the process.
Based on an original dataset of 651 households in the informal settlement of Kibera in Nairobi, Kenya, this article examines household electricity use, drivers of uptake and willingness to pay (WTP) for efficient compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) lighting technology. Informal and illegal electricity consumption, euphemistically referred to by residents as "electricity borrowing", is common. This removes the metered electricity price lever upon which to influence consumer behaviour and demand for energy-efficient technologies. However, as this study demonstrates, the comparative durability of efficient lighting technologies presents economic benefits for uptake even in a context of fixed-rate electricity payments. While bulb uptake and stated WTP are independent of demographic characteristics such as income activity, gender, education and other factors, they are significantly correlated with informal electricity consumption, beliefs related to bulb durability, knowledge of past energy efficiency outreach, and other contextual factors, underlining a need for tailored approaches to energy efficiency in informal settlements.
This paper explains the reasons behind the growing social tension and increased number of conflicts in China after a good performance in meeting the Millennium Development Goals. In this paper, we map out the issues with old urbanization (1978–2014) and the problems unsolved by past policy, and analyse whether the new policy changes introduced by the New Urbanization Plan (2014–2020) may help to deal with those problems. We argue that the tensions that evolve into conflicts are often a result of unaddressed social anxiety. Using money to purchase social stability can only be part of the solution. There need to be more serious attempts to improve governance, which involve: improving multi-level governance and inter-regional coordination, enhancing policy transparency and rule by law, adjusting the level of redistribution, and integrating rural and urban community governance structures.
This article is a critical reflection on the Phephanathi Platform, an ongoing collaboration among organizations of informal traders working in the Warwick Junction markets in Durban, South Africa and their support organizations. The purpose of the Platform is to experiment with the extension of occupational health and safety to informal workers working in urban public space through the establishment of an integrated urban health platform. The article is concerned not only with the practical aspects of the Platform, but also assesses the Platform as a political strategy. It focuses on two key pieces of work – the design and rollout of first aid stands into the markets, and the attempt to institutionalize occupational health and safety for informal workers within the local municipality. The article concludes with a meta-reflection on the work, elaborating on some of the important questions that are raised and drawing out the implications for integrating occupational health and safety into the urban environment.
This paper begins with the description of a theory that draws a parallel between slime mould behaviour and the functioning of informal settlements – part of a scholarly trend that recognizes and glorifies a kind of futuristic intelligence in these deprived zones. The paper goes on to demystify the slime mould theory using a case that, at first glance, seems to validate it. When faced with the threat of forced eviction due to a canal reclamation project, the informal residents living along the banks resort to a range of survival tactics that protect them from eviction, and, in an ironic twist, also make it impossible for the project to succeed. Seen in isolation, the informal residents seem to act as the theory predicted – without being guided by a "single brain" or a "power elite". However, seen within the historical and political context, this moment of triumph is itself found to be bounded on all sides by defeat and deprivation.
Ludhiana, the industrial hub of Punjab, North India, attracts a large number of migrants, many of whom face a range of exclusions. This study was undertaken to gather information on the availability of civic amenities relevant to Millennium Development Goal 7, including water supply, sanitation, drainage, electrical connections, and the condition of migrants’ housing. Thirty slum settlements, 15 notified and 15 non-notified, were randomly selected for the study, and 3,947 newer migrant households were purposively sampled and surveyed. More than a third of the surveyed households had no in-house piped water supply, over half still relied on open defecation, 40 per cent lacked metered electricity connections, and only 43 per cent had closed drains. The situation was much better for those in notified as compared to non-notified slums or open spaces. A relatively high proportion resided in higher-quality pucca houses, but this appears to have been due to their status as tenants, renting rooms from more established home owners.
This paper discusses benefits that informal wetland communities in Kampala, Uganda derive from their location in the wetland and how they adapt to minimize vulnerability to hazards such as floods and disease vectors. We focus on the mechanisms, preferences and ability to adapt. A total of 551 households were interviewed in addition to four focus group discussions and five key informant interviews. Free water from spring wells and cheaper rental units topped the benefits from location, while the main benefit associated with the wetland is that it supports crop farming. Tenure status was significantly associated with the preference and perceived ability to adapt: tenants were less likely to prefer to adapt, and less likely to perceive themselves as able to afford adaptation, than landlords. There is a need for coordinated adaptation strategies that involve all stakeholders and that enhance equitable utilization of wetland resources without compromising their ecosystem services and economic benefits.
"Clean Team" provides serviced, free-standing toilets as a sanitation option in low-income areas of Kumasi, Ghana. A cross-sectional survey was carried out to assess sanitation and hygiene practices in 199 Clean Team households and 201 neighbouring, non-Clean Team households. Adults in non-Clean Team households were no more likely to report unsafe defecation (faeces not contained in a latrine) than their Clean Team neighbours, although their reliance on public toilets may lead to occasional unsafe practices. Children in Clean Team households used the household toilet from a younger age than those in non-Clean Team households, and their faeces were thus more often disposed of safely. Soap and water were more frequently found at the latrine in Clean Team households than in latrine-owning non-Clean Team households.
Use of Clean Team toilets is likely to reduce faecal contamination of the environment through safer child defecation and stool disposal practices, and may increase the opportunity for post-defecation handwashing with soap.
This paper continues the story of the Indian Alliance (the partnership of SPARC, Mahila Milan and the National Slum Dwellers’ Federation), as it designed and built housing with urban poor communities from 1986 to 1995. It focuses on three cases in Mumbai, where communities with precarious housing developed alternatives to resettlement and redevelopment. The housing solutions they developed were the product of negotiation with local authorities and collaboration with the evolving Alliance. The paper documents the collective learning – about the practicalities of construction as well as financing and relationships with local governments – that was instrumental to this work, and that influenced the Alliance’s strategies for inclusive community engagement and housing improvements in other locations. These strategies continue to develop and provide valuable lessons that can be applied to the implementation of the new urban Sustainable Development Goal.
An emerging social category – the fragile city – can be described as a discrete metropolitan unit whose governance arrangements exhibit a declining ability and/or willingness to deliver on the social contract. Fragility is thus no longer ascribed by decision makers and analysts exclusively to nation-states and federal institutions. Rather, fragile cities are being reconceived as the primary sites of tomorrow’s warfare and development. Yet, surprisingly little is known about them. When do cities "tip" into fragility? How is fragility distributed within and between neighbourhoods? What allows some cities to cope, adapt and rebound from external and internal stresses? This article, drawing from emerging theoretical and policy literatures, finds that urban fragility is neither inevitable nor irreversible. To the contrary: it is the very resilience of cities, their neighbourhoods and institutions that is often overlooked in efforts to promote stability and development. Fragile cities themselves are constituted of sources of local resistance and agency that, in some cases, can be reinforced and from which positive lessons can be learned.
Disaster risk reduction (DRR) has become a major area of concern in the wake of increasing numbers of disasters. With rapid urbanization, both globally and locally, attention to the challenge of disaster risks has turned to urban settlements, where high densities and settlement patterns can, and do, create vulnerabilities. This paper presents an analysis of the hazards and risks that the town of Karonga in Malawi faces from earthquakes, floods, strong winds and drought, and considers locally appropriate methods to address these. It also discusses the limits of collaborative urban planning in this context, especially in light of the absence of an elected local government. Lessons from Karonga can inform the development of effective DRR mainstreaming tools in countries reliant on external support.
This paper responds to Vanessa Watson’s article on the inappropriate urban development plans that are increasingly common in sub-Saharan Africa as governments seek to make their cities "world class". It describes how the government of Angola has been able to use financing from Chinese credit facilities to build prestige projects that include support for the public-privately developed Kilamba city with 20,000 apartments. The apartments were initially too expensive for most of the population, and the state has had to draw further funds from its housing budget for a subsidized rent-to-purchase scheme to make the units affordable for middle-level civil servants. The author argues that an opportunity is being missed to use today’s income from high-priced natural resources and the current easy access to Chinese credit lines and technical expertise to address the very large backlogs in urban upgrading of basic service infrastructure and housing for the poor. The paper also reflects on a previous post-independence period when a number of African new cities were built, leaving some countries with decades of debt and stagnant development. Can errors from the past offer lessons for future African urban development?
The work of Buenos Aires’ cartoneros (informal recyclers) has important environmental and economic repercussions for the city. This paper investigates cartoneros’ working and living conditions, establishing a 2007 baseline for the logistics of informal recycling practice in Buenos Aires and providing a description of the socioeconomic characteristics of these workers at a key moment in time. Under the purview of a new chief of government elected in 2007, a formalization plan for cartoneros was initiated in 2011. This paper assesses some of the potential impacts of this plan on cartoneros and their work, and suggests that while such a system may benefit some workers (providing them with increased income, social acceptability and improved relationships with the municipality), there are also potential drawbacks to the formalization plan (including possible difficulties instituting a cooperative system with previously unorganized workers and the labour exclusion of more socially marginalized cartoneros).
This paper describes the flood risks faced by Surat, one of India’s most successful and also most flood-prone cities. The city is located on the Tapi River and faces flood risks not only from heavy precipitation in and around the city but also from heavy precipitation upstream and from high tides downstream. Reducing the risks from upstream depends on better water management in a water catchment area and dam reservoir located far outside the city authority’s jurisdiction and in another state. The paper also reviews measures being taken to reduce flood risks – and how climate change is likely to affect such risks. It suggests that part of the city’s response needs to be a greater ability to live with floods, while minimizing the costs these usually bring in terms of loss of life, damage to homes and disruption to businesses.
The city of Dar es Salaam, with a population of more than four million, has no climate change adaptation plan. It also has a very large development deficit and lacks adequate provision for infrastructure and services such as piped water, sewers, drains and solid waste collection. Addressing this deficit (and building the institutional and financial capacity to do so) is also important for building resilience to climate change impacts. Eighty per cent of the city’s population lives in informal settlements, but there is little effective land use management and a number of these settlements are on sites that flood regularly. Climate change impacts include sea level rise, rising temperatures and increased occurrence of extreme weather, including rainstorms and droughts, all of which present challenges to city and municipal governments that are struggling to reduce the development deficit. This paper discusses the measures being taken to address this deficit and where and how these measures can be accompanied by improved disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation.
As climate change impacts are felt within growing numbers of cities in low- and middle-income countries, there is growing interest in the adaptation plans and programmes put forward by city authorities. Yet cities face considerable constraints on this front. This paper aims to provide a better understanding of these constraints by analyzing the case of Rosario, in Argentina. The city has a strong coherent governance system, with a commitment to decentralization, transparency, accountability and participation. Its long tradition of urban planning has evolved to include a broad vision of urban challenges and responses, a commitment to environmental sustainability and a strategic plan that has involved multiple stakeholders. This paper describes the many measures implemented in Rosario over the last 18 years, which provide a solid foundation for more systematically addressing adaptation. It also describes the significant challenges faced by the city’s administration, especially around funding, data and the challenge of responding to pressing and competing interests.
Grassroots organizations that have sought to scale up improvements to their urban neighbourhoods through engaging the state have found themselves drawn into relationships with professionals. The potentially negative consequences of such engagements have long been recognized. This paper explores the nature of relations between professionals and organizations of the urban poor, identifying and discussing associated relational tensions. It considers the ways in which one alliance of urban poor federations and support NGOs has responded to the challenge to build alternatives within professionalized mainstream urban development practice.
The relationship between urbanization and development is a vital policy concern, especially in Africa and Asia. This paper reviews the arguments and evidence for whether rapid urban population growth can help to raise living standards. The main finding is that the development effects of urbanization and the magnitude of agglomeration economies are very variable. There is no simple linear relationship between urbanization and economic growth, or between city size and productivity. The potential of urbanization to promote growth is likely to depend on how conducive the infrastructure and institutional settings are. Removing barriers to rural–urban mobility may enable economic growth, but the benefits will be much larger with supportive policies, markets and infrastructure investments. Cities should use realistic population projections as the basis for investing in public infrastructure and implementing supportive land policies. Governments should seek out ways of enabling forms of urbanization that contribute to growth, poverty reduction and environmental sustainability, rather than encouraging (or discouraging) urbanization per se.
There is a growing, although still far from comprehensive, literature within China on the impacts of climate change in urban areas; also an evolving policy framework at national level to address these concerns and an increased interest in climate change adaptation from many local governments. This paper summarizes the urban risks and vulnerabilities highlighted by the literature, and reviews central and local government responses. It then assesses policy response, including how this considers vulnerability and future risks, formulates an adaptation strategy, engages stakeholders and assesses adaptive capacity. This shows how the Chinese system limits the influence on climate change adaptation of residents and small businesses, and of social scientists. The reasons for this include the tendency to use climate change as an economic growth engine (and GDP growth remains the most important factor for assessing local government officials’ performance), little provision for participation in policy-making, and weak post-implementation evaluation once a policy has been scaled up at national level. These have affected the quality of evidence-based policy-making and make it difficult to draw lessons from unsuccessful practice.