A PDP Delegation visits Mumbai, Pune and Kolkata to network with Indian counterparts on urban development strategies from March 21 to April 3, 2009.
Marion Fischer, PDP Programme Manager, and Gundula Löffler, Leader of PDP’s Capacity Development Unit, undertook a two-week experience exchange visit to the Indian cities of Mumbai, Kolkata and Pune in Spring 2009. The trip’s objective was to meet up with urban development experts, politicians and non-governmental activists in three Indian cities in order to exchange experiences, discuss participatory approaches to urban development and visit field sites of slum improvement, urban housing and community development.
A shanty town in the city of Kolkata
Mumbai and Kolkata were selected as main destinations as these mega cities grapple with similar population and housing challenges faced by residents of Greater Cairo. In facilitating the India visit, PDP’s delegation was assisted by Ms. Aparna Das, an urban development expert from New Delhi, who coordinated the program and also accompanied the two delegates on most of their scheduled events.
With an estimated population of 1.2 billion in 2008, India is the second-most populous country on the planet. As many other nations, the subcontinent is experiencing rapid urbanization with urban populations growing faster than the country’s total population. Currently 286 million Indians or 28% of the total population reside in cities or towns. By the year 2030 this number is expected to grow to 575 million or 41% (UNDP, 2009). Meanwhile, India’s slum population is rapidly increasing; over 80 million poor people live in the country’s cities and towns. Experts refer to this process as the “Urbanisation of Poverty” (UNDP, 2009, 1).
Gundula Löffler (left) and Marion Fischer (right) meet with Urvinder Madan (center), an urban development expert heading the Mumbai Transformation Support Unit.
The GIZ delegation spent the entire first week in the city of Mumbai, the capital of Maharashtra State. Mumbai is a cluster of seven islands that were joined together into one landmass of 436 km² through three centuries of land reclamation, connected to the mainland by several bridges. In 2008, India’s financial hub housed 14 million people and had a population density of roughly 22,800 people per km². Half the city’s population, totalling over 6 million people, resides in slum areas that only represent 6% of the cityscape. As opposed to Cairo’s informal areas, many of which provide comparatively acceptable housing conditions to the city’s middle class, Mumbai’s slums contain vast areas of minimum-standard housing to the poorest of the poor. It is estimated that around 980,000 people are housed in shanties alongside Mumbai’s footpaths. These pavement dwellers have least access to basic services as well as minimal security of tenure.
The PDP delegation was warmly welcomed by representatives of Mumbai’s government administration. The delegation had the chance to meet with senior officials of the Mumbai Transformation Support Unit (MTSU), the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MAHADA), the Mumbai Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) and the Mumbai Municipal Corporation. These meetings gave the PDP staff an overview of the urban development approaches Greater Mumbai authorities have been taking at different levels of government. The PDP delegates and their Indian counterparts discussed possibilities for implementing participatory, city-wide approaches to informal area upgrading and mechanisms for scaling up localised development experiences to higher levels of administration and governance.
A SPARC social housing project where residents operate a shop and workshop
Many NGOs and Civil Society associations have become active in Mumbai’s slum areas in a bid to improve the living conditions of the urban poor. The PDP team was hosted by staff members of the acclaimed Mumbai-based NGO SPARC (The Society for the Promotion of Area Resource Centres), which assists hundreds of thousands of slum and pavement dwellers in addressing issues related to urban poverty, for example by collectively producing solutions for affordable housing and sanitation ( http://www.sparcindia.org ). One of SPARC’s urban development activists led the visitors from Cairo around Mumbai’s most critical slum areas and presented the results of SPARC’s community development and slum upgrading efforts.
On March 25th the PDP delegation undertook a field trip to the city of Pune, a city of 4 million residents located 165km southeast of Mumbai. Pune is a fast-growing city and one of Maharasthra State’s industrial and educational hubs. Although much less urbanised than the neighbouring Mumbai, Pune also faces problems of informal housing with an estimated 40% of its population residing in slums. In tackling informal area upgrading, Pune’s municipal administration is famous for implementing innovative participatory governance and financing mechanisms. The delegation met with senior staff members of the Pune Municipal Corporation, members of several NGOs working on community mobilisation for slum upgrading and participatory budgeting, as well as a representative of Yashada, an administrative training institute with national and international operations. Although only certain sections of the city’s municipal budget are currently assigned in participatory ways, Pune Municipal Corporation follows a successful model of identifying local needs in partnership with local NGOs and Civil Society representatives.
PDP’s delegates discuss mechanisms of participatory budgeting with members of Pune’s Municipal Council.
On March 27th, the PDP delegation travelled on to Kolkata. Located in the Ganges Delta in the Eastern Indian State of West Bengal, Kolkata’s estimated population was just under 8 million in 2008 (or 15 million if the 72 cities and 527 towns of Kolkata’s metropolitan area are included). This makes Kolkata the 8th largest metropolitan area in the world. An estimated 3.5 million people, or 33% of Kolkata’s population, are estimated to live in slums, mostly in so-called “bustees”, single-story constructions made of permanent or semi-permanent materials. Kolkata has had to cope with large numbers of refugees – for example those arriving after India’s partition in 1947 – who squatted on vacant lands mostly owned by private landowners. This resulted in conflicts and unclear tenure situations that to this day are not resolved.
Marion Fischer (Far right), Gundula Löffler (right) and Aparna Das (far left) are welcomed by His Excellency Mr. Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharuyya, the Mayor of Kolkata.
In Kolkata, the PDP representatives attended meetings with the city’s Mayor, with two Councilors of Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC), a representative of Chandan Nagore Municipal Corporation and a staff member of the Town and Country Planning Department.
A KEIP social housing project
The KMC representatives introduced local efforts to urban development and slum upgrading. A geographer at the Center for Social Sciences then presented the geographical, social and political factors that have shaped Kolkata’s urban growth and argued that the emergence of middle class housing enclaves leads to intensified exclusion of the urban poor from many city spaces.
A women’s community group supported by KEIP
To conclude their India visit, the PDP delegation attended a field day organised by a senior adviser to the Kolkata Environmental Improvement Project (KEIP). Funded by the Asian Development Bank, KEIP seeks to reduce environmental degradation by providing affordable access to basic urban services in Kolkata’s slums, including sewerage, drainage, solid waste management and drainage.