Monday, January 14, 2008
A big year for the wrecking ball
This excellent article from Canada's Globe and Mail newspaper notes that governments in Mumbai, India and Istanbul, Turkey are set to demolish millions of squatter homes to make way for highrises, in a misguided attempt to modernize their cities.
In both cities, it seems like the government is using the rhetoric of improvement and redevelopment to shift land from being held by largely poor squatters to being owned by large real estate establishments. The impact on the squatters, it seems, is just collateral damage (see photo of Nehru Nagar in Mumbai).
Yet the article offers a modest way forward:
"The best plans generally let the slum dwellers themselves make the main decisions in planning their future. You should provide clean water, toilets, electricity, garbage collection and disposal, and maybe let people build their own houses if they can using materials that you can provide," says Aprodicio Laquian, the Filipino-Canadian planner who practically invented the idea of slum-dweller-designed urban rehabilitation in the 1960s and is now at the University of British Columbia.
"Eventually," Mr. Laquian says, "you want to make available a better sort of housing, a five-storey walk-up apartment, but planned according to the needs of the community, not by some central plan."
An amazing and simple statement of what ought to be the norm in urban development. Instead, it's a revolutionary thought. How many people need to get evicted before the world understands?