Thursday, 18 April 2013

A law that is a double edged sword - Sheela Patel

The real challenge of informality in cities and their label of “encroachments” is very troubling. In a well managed and inclusive city context where everyone has the opportunity to find a place to stay, having a tough law that stops encroachment is something that makes sense. In Mumbai however we have a dual crisis. Firstly if we believe that the BELL CURVE principle is correct, it means that majority of the population falls in the middle and extreme deviance with too much land or no land is less, then it demonstrates that the law and the governance is working well. However when a city has over 50% illegal structures , then something is wrong with the laws and the planning systems.

Secondly, when land is framed to be exclusive and out of reach of most people, then not only the poor live in a constant fear of being evicted, they also find that the absence of overarching legal framework to protect them.  Thus, informal “protection” which is extortionist and almost feudal adds its burdens to the insecurity they face.

It is within this context that we have to view such a news item. While on the face of it the BMC seems to get freedom to manage the city, the real deep question is how many of these evictions are taken up for what reason. Often when slum dwellers show “disrespect” or do not follow the dictate of a local leader, it is followed by eviction orders.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Jockin & Rose meet with Dr. Joan Clos of UNHABITAT - Sheela Patel

UNHABITAT is the UN agency that addresses the global overarching issues that the alliance deals with locally and nationally. The alliance as part of Slum/Shack Dwellers International (SDI)  has been engaged with UNHABITAT for many years. This year a delegation from SDI headed by Jockin attended the annual governing body meeting of UNHABITAT and  held meetings with several ministers and mayors.  In addition, Jockin had a special meeting with Dr. Clos, the executive Director of UNHABITAT to explore how to collaborate the SDI and UNHABITAT.

The SDI has  now signed a MOU with UN HABITAT - it has become part of the City Changers campaign and works closely with  different divisions of the organization on a range of issues.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013


World Resource Institute (WRI) is trying to establishing itself in the urban areas as it has established itself in the rural areas.  WRI are meeting with different actors in the urban sector to understand how climate change affects urban cities as they are aware of the impact in the rural poor. WRI focuses on the intersection of the environment and socio-economic development. In this context WRI met with the SPARC team to understand more of our work in the urban areas, what kind of communities we work with, and how does climate change affect the communities. A couple of questions were raised by WRI - how does SPARC view success, how would slums look like 5 or 10 years, which are the trickiest services to get to the slums. 
The main points discussed between SPARC and WRI were:
1. Brief about work of  SPARC
2. Explaining different federations and how they are formed
3. Talking about the  study on poverty and vulnerability and climate change
4. How services are provided to the urban poor
The poverty and vulnerability study, sanitation project and paper on climate change in Cuttack were shared with WRI following which they had few more questions. Once the WRI understands the situation of the urban poor, they will be in a better position to think of which aspect to take on and will then send a proposal to SPARC. One of the main questions they had was, if they were to do something about the effect of climate change in urban cities what would be the most important issue to which we suggested sanitation, since inadequate sanitation facilities effect the environment.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013


Nancy Mean is one of the executive deputies of Professor Karl Swab from the Swaub Foundation and the founder of the World Economic Forum. She wrote to SPARC saying she would be in Mumbai and would love to spend a day with us bringing her husband and son to visit. She first came to the Khetwadi office of SPARC on 3rd April 13 and explained that she was using her Easter break to explore Mumbai and reconfirm for her self she really enjoyed connecting to the city. Her husband, who is a dentist, and her youngest son were completely involved in Nancy’s daily hectic schedule of visiting us and other social networks, eating at local food joints, and meeting and interacting with communities of the poor in cities.

They spent time understanding what the alliance does and its role as facilitating the dialogue between the city and the informal and urban poor living in slums.  They spent the afternoon with families residing in Mankurd, the first households who designed and undertook their relocation from the railway site.

Nancy is a Canadian living in Geneva for many years now and finds an amazing energy in Mumbai which is clearly something special and unique.