Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Going back and forth on R&R for New Mumbai Airport - Sheela Patel

The NSDF link with Airport slums predates the formation of the alliance with SPARC and MM. ZOPADI KI AWAS and may leaders from airport slums were part of NSDF and fought against evictions. Prominent amongst them was MAGAR who lived in the airport slums but worked as a peon in BMC.

From 1986 onward the NSDF begun to survey airport slums and formed a federation which in turn sought the assistance of SPARC to present its findings to the Urban Development Department as well as the housing department.  The issues surveyed were the direct impact of lack of collection of garbage in the slums near the airport causing an increase in the number of birds hitting the planes; the loss of time and air fuel due to the slum that abutted the runaway.

This one slum was then relocated, thus demonstrating what organized communities could do. This was followed with the announcement of the privatization of the airport and MIAL managed by MVK group. Although some people in the government tried to get the alliance to undertake the survey, the construction of the tenements for relocation and the actual relocation was given to HDL. While local communities feel the number of houses is 98,000 structures HDL claims it is 80,000—although no official survey has been done so far as the residents do not allow it.

Their contention is simple: They want to know what land the airport needs for expanding its directly needed infrastructure. They agree that this land would be handed over in exchange for the households to be relocated on lands outside this new boundary.

MIAL and HDL want to relocate all of the households elsewhere on lands purchased or claimed for this purpose.  They want to convert this land into convention centers hotels and other commercial activity which the residents are resisting.

Although this estrangement is between two private companies, the state has a duty and obligation to arbitrate the public interest matter of addressing the relocation issue as well as expediting the improvement of the airport.

No one is answering the resident communities question about what land does the airport need for its own infrastructure.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Exploring either/or type options in housing is BAD - Sheela Patel

About 5 years ago, SPARC, NSDF, and MM, having been involved in creating  transit accommodation option as a two phase relocation possibility, began to explore how rental housing would be useful to the poor.

In slums, almost one third of all units have rental accommodations, which is a mirror image of the formal rental procedures. The renter rents the accommodation for 11 months at a time and pays a deposit as well as advance rent. For many households, rental housing is both useful as a income generational activity for the owner and a boon to the renter to stay in a particular locality.

MMRDA, to whom along with the alliance recommended the construction of small units to rent to the poor began to give permissions in the metro region.  These are the units that this article is referring to. Having begun construction, MMRDA is reluctant to put into place the governance architecture to this investment and for some time has either sought to “sell” the houses or use them as transit.

Given the volume required for both transit and rental, the state strategy falls between two stools as it fulfills neither goals.

Large metro regions need a wide rage of options for housing. Creating conditions for mobility, different time spans for living in different locations and different types of accommodation is the need of the hour. Yet, somehow, the stamina and transparency as well as foresight to take on this long neglected task is beyond the state.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Marriages and Sanitation - Sheela Patel

In rural India and Bangladesh, sanitation values are fast changing. Villages are campaigning against open defecation. Children put flags with names of people they have seen defecating in the open and women refuse to give their daughters in marriages in villages and homes that have no universal sanitation.

Unfortunately, this is not happening in urban areas.  Many years ago, when the western railway line was more efficient than the central and harbor line, marriages were arrange with families along the same railway line. Families didn't want their daughters married to households which required women to walk long distances for water; likewise, families who lived on the plains didn’t want daughters married to those who lived on hills… so the story goes.

So then what about urban sanitation?

First of all, in urban areas, traditionally cities never laid sewers under slums as they always believed they would eventually evict the slum dwellers. Secondly, given the sheer volume of faecal matter in dense settlements, digging a pit and defecating is hardly the solution. Access to water and safe management of fecal matter in large volumes does not produce individual focus for solutions. Even if people wanted toilets in their homes, without water, adequate space or disposal mechanism it actually would add hazards to the existing hygiene challenge the urban poor face.

It’s because of these circumstances that the alliance of SPARC, MM, and NSDF are exploring the community toilet concept.

Exploring working together with MIT - Sheela Patel

Below is a summary of the meeting with MIT Dept of Urban Studies + Planning faculty and SDI, held on May 1, 2013.

The meeting was called by Bish Sanyal, as there has long been talk between he and Sheela about a possible collaboration between the two institutions, and Sheela was in town for the MIT IDG (international development group) conference.

Eran Ben-Joseph, Larry Vale, Phil Thompson, Shomon Shamsuddin, Bish Sanyal, Balakrishnan Rajagopal (Raj), Gabriella Carolini, Sheela Patel, Ben Bradlow

· MIT is launching a new Resilient Cities Housing Initiative, anchored by Larry Vale, which will restore visibility and focus of housing research at MIT. Shomon Shamsuddin is also working on this.
· Gabriella Carolini does research focused on re-conceptualizing public responsibility and associated practices of governance.
· Bish Sanyal is focused on evaluating and building new technologies for development.
· Raj is focused on re-conceptualizing human rights, law, and social movements. Has begun a large research project on development-induced displacement.
· Phil Thompson is focused on linking housing and livelihoods-based organizing strategies in US, with a focus on historically dispossessed communities, including people of color).
· Sheela introduced history of Indian Alliance and SDI. In particular, she noted the extent to which major innovations of SDI projects do not get documented and integrated into the practices of major development institutions. Similarly, she said, "we have changed the face of community organizing," but the SDI model doesn't have recognition or a name" (in comparison to the Alinsky model, for example).
· Phil Thompson noted possibilities of working with new US ambassador to SA, Patrick Gaspard, who is interested in SDI's work, and also new chair of Ford Foundation (both personal friends of Phil). He also suggested the possibility of building projects through alternative funding mechanisms. e.g.. large pension funds of major unions in SA (COSATU, SATAWU).
· Over the course of the week, multiple faculty expressed enthusiasm about these possibilities. Ben and Sheela discussed challenges of partnering with institutions like MIT, and noted that we should continue to explore this, but that it would take steps to build trust and understanding, in order to make such a relationship mutually beneficial.

Next steps:
· It was agreed in principle that the basis for partnership should be a 5-10 year partnership based on 2-3 sub-themes. 
· Ben will work with DUSP faculty to identify what research areas they are currently working on that would overlap with work and interests of SDI. Together, will begin to see whether there are some foundational interest areas that could work for a sustained partnership.
· MIT could also work with SDI to partner with a local university in a SDI-affiliate country, along the lines of the UC-Berkeley/U of Nairobi/Muungano model.