Slums are informal housing settlements commonly found in urban areas of developing countries
which are characterised by poor shelter, low service provision and lacking in security of tenure.
Slums are growing and new slums are forming. The international development community has
been actively working to improve the living conditions of slum-dwellers and to reduce poverty via
slum upgrading methods. There are various slum upgrading delivery models and approaches to
tackle the urbanisation of poverty in developing countries. Many adaptive and proactive measures
have been implemented through a variety of slum upgrading initiatives and partnerships; however
there has been limited investigation of the longer term sustainability of such interventions.
Achieving sustainable upgrading
A research investigation of in-situ and rehabilitation slum upgrading infrastructure and housing
projects in India and Kenya has
found that there are many
misconceptions around slums
which can affect the
sustainability of measures to
upgrade informal settlements.
The way that international
development organisations and
‘westerners’ view slums is often
very particular and not always
resonant with the way that slum-
dwellers view their living
situation. Priorities for
development are not always
consistent across stakeholders
and upgrading partners who
normally come from varying
cultural backgrounds and
Figure 1: Slum housing in Pune, India.
professional situations. Differing
backgrounds and priorities for development across stakeholders have an impact on the
sustainability of slum-upgrading delivery models. Research conducted across a range of slum
upgrading options and contexts has enabled a number of interesting observations and
considerations to emerge.
Reliance on service provision
Outsiders of the slum may see physical deprivation, chaos and inefficiency, but from the inside
slum-dwellers see their home, a situation they are able to cope with and in many cases that they
are quite content with, if not happy. Many slum-dwellers actually make an efficient service out of
what they manage to gain from the slum. For example, if they know they only get electricity for
one hour a day they work their lives around it, similarly, if they know they can only get water from
a communal tap-stand they adapt to the situation and know when the best time is to do their
washing. The residents are flexible and learn to live with their situation. Their elasticity is high,
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