Friday, 30 August 2013

What to do in case of forced evictions?

In pursuance of the struggle to stall the processes of eviction, Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN), Delhi, has published a handbook in Hindi, English and Tamil titled, “What to do in case of a forced eviction”. The handbook, released by men and women who have faced forced eviction or are on the verge of it, elaborates upon the right to adequate housing and is a step towards educating the slum-dwellers about their rights. The book has sections that covers the rights of people in purview of state, national and international policies. It also details what compensation can be sought in case of forced evictions, steps that can be taken to prevent or counter forced evictions, and some contacts that can come in handy in case the affected dwellers need directions or help. Though the publication is produced considering the settlements in Delhi, it can be extended to support communities countering similar issues in rest of the country.

Too HIGH expectations?

In a high density city like Mumbai, vertical expansion is inevitable if land is to be available for everyone.  However, high rises mean heavy maintenance expenditures which the slum dwellers have to incur to pay for water bills, garbage collection, regular cleaning etc. Elevator  maintenance adds to it. In an article featured above, the developer is positive about slum dwellers moving into 23 floor buildings. He wants to balance the cost of maintenance by providing fix corpus and provision for part payment of maintenance for 10 years, “training” slum dwellers in using facilities like the elevators and bathrooms and thinks “they will have to learn to adapt to these socioeconomic changes”.  Are these too high expectations? Or wrong assumptions? Firstly, most families could be coming from economically vulnerable groups that might find the sudden rise in monthly expenses too taxing to handle and secondly, sudden change in socio-economic conditions are not easy to handle as compared to a gradual change.  Thus, the rehabilitation policies should also look at long term affects of the scheme and draft guidelines that will not jeopardize the future of affected families.

The GO-code

For years, the alliance has been promoting the need to map each individual household in a slum settlement. To complement this practice and to technically advance this practice, the alliance is been approached by an organization called “Addressing the Unaddressed”. The organization strives to provide each slum dweller with a unique code called the GO-code. This process is simple, a regular marking of the household, using a code generator software to generate a unique code, first roughly marking the house with this code and then making permanent metal boards that sport this number. These plates look like the license plates that are mandatory for each vehicle on the street. The plates being affixed on the door frames are permanent and being unique, will give a sense of identity to each household. These codes are marked on the map and therefore each household gets marked on the map. The unaddressed dwellers therefore become addressed, allowing them to get legal identification documents, ration cards, bank formalities etc.  This will also support the community when the settlement needs to be surveyed under the pretext of development schemes such as redevelopment.

After a successful pilot mapping a settlement in Kolkata, the organization wants to pilot this process in Mumbai in collaboration with the alliance.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Reinventing toilets for the urban poor

Sanitation facilities among the urban poor become extremely challenging when considering the proper disposal of feces. Building toilets  is seen as a way to end open defecation and it holds true. However having a mechanism by which the human refuse is also disposed safely is equally important to maximize the benefits of sanitation. In dense cities, laying out sewerage lines is very expensive and septic tanks are not always cleaned. Therefore innovative design methods by which sewage can be treated on-site can become an important solution to problems of sewage disposal in community toilets.

Dr. Koottatep from the Asian Institute of Technology, Thailand has received $5 million dollar grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to research innovative designs of toilet construction. Currently four technology institutes in India and abroad are researching on the invention and prototyping of Decentralized Waste Water Treatment Systems DEWAT that treats waste water at source and converts it into ready for reuse products.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Learning about India's energy options - Sheela Patel

On Friday 23rd August, John Samuel of NSDF and Sheela Patel attended a meeting organized by Miserioir to prepare for a meeting in October in Cape Town titled, “ International South 2 South conference : power up! A just energy transition for the South”.

The objective for the preparatory conference was:

1. To understand and reflect on energy issues from a policy perspective in the national Indian context
2. Get exposure to the challenges in the renewable and decentralized energy technology options at the grassroots level
3. Create an opportunity for partners to meet and prepare for a country profile to feed into the CT conference.

Presentations made by the following resource persons around which the main areas of discussions took place:
  1. D Raghunandan  Center for Technology and Development, New Delhi
  2. Prayas, Pune
  3. Aarti/Sanchit, Pune: Priyadarshani Karve
  4. TERI, New Delhi
  5. Vasudha, New Delhi
Following are my personal notes, from the facts made by the organizers through power point presentations:
  •  Most of the energy consumption is the material used from Bio mass that remains under the radar. 
  • In the discussions clearly many NGOS have explored alternative energy solutions but face many difficulties and challenges.
  • Discussion on Centralized and Decentralized energy solutions in the alternate renewable energy field have challenges. The solution lies in clever combinations. 
  • One example given was about Rajasthan where communities got displaced to place solar panels for renewable energy; scarce water was used to clean the panels while the people faced water scarcity; and it hardly produced any jobs. 
  • Electricity is most expensive but cleanest energy source. 
  • The discussion is always about justice and energy.
  • Transport planning of and within locations all contribute to create energy usage.
  • In Maharashtra the Kelkar Committee reviews these issues and has commented that people who are poor bear the costs but get no benefits.
  • A possibility to consider: what if all Panchayats set up their own grids and charged people, then at least they would get regular energy. However it would mean its more expensive than what is presently charged for electricity.
  • A conflict between irregular or no access of subsidized electricity and additional costs for regular alternative energy is evident today.
  • Climate change is going to impact agriculture in many ways. Clearly a mix of renewable energy  and electricity is the way forward but requires a change in infrastructure for successful delivery.
  • The location issues are important; for instance solar energy for water pumps work where the water table is high, not where the pumped process has to go deep - which is increasingly the case.
  • Garbage to energy sounds useful, especially in cities, but at  the moment, its not working because reparation  is not effective and outputs are not efficient. Yet the government wants to set up 500 units in the country, adversely impacting the waste pickers and recycling in the informal sector.
  • Challenges of sustainability and understanding the global contexts within which sustainability has to be understood:
    • Whatever India does it will have to deal with emissions related conventions that will occur globally and plan reduction in CO2 emissions. 
    • RIGHTS based choices  are crucial for the new energy regimen to embrace.
    • Defining a RIGHT to energy is crucial and forces to explore justice sustainability and future planning. 
    • It is unclear yet what emission linked carbon budget India will get but whatever it is, it will constrain the present business a usual regimen.
    • The right to energy has a pre-requisite of per capital goal setting. We have to ensure like GDP -it does not cloak inequity and unequal access.
    • Presently India has some of the lowest emissions, 2870, which is half of china and yet we have a large development deficit as well at 30%
    • 16% agriculture usage employs 56% people. Industry and services need to move to rural areas. 
    • Significant infrastructure investment means high energy consumption—rails and highways are being planned without looking at energy audits.

Reduce Improve and replace was the slogan.
Present growth is jobless growth

R&R and New Mumbai Airport - Sheela Patel

All infrastructure projects ignore both the economics and the politics linked challenges of relocation of households. It is evident that relocation for pubic requirement of infrastructure legitimatize relocation of households and  by and large their needs aspirations and demands are never considered; which is crucial for the smooth execution of the project. In many instances in which the households that need to be relocated are slum dwellers, administrators treat the slum dwellers as “getting favors” to be given relocation.  The administrators should instead see the project as ensuring that the disadvantaged households get adequate shelter as well as improved quality of life as a result of the project which the state is obligated to provide to the vulnerable.

In the situation of the Navi Mumbai Airport the circumstances are different.  The land is inhabited by villages their land cannot be just taken away.  This project has been continuously delayed for many years due to several reasons at different times.  The simplicity and clarity of demands by the households and their acceptance by the state will facilitate a way forward. Why should it have taken so long?