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close this bookThe Human Settlements Conditions of the World's Urban Poor (HABITAT, 1996, 233 p.)
close this folderV. Reaching the urban poor
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentA. The changing international policy context for urban development and shelter
View the documentB. The sites-and-services programme in Zimbabwe
View the documentC. Brazil: the FUNACOM programme in São Paulo
View the documentD. An evaluation of the Employees’ Housing Programme (EHP) in the Republic of Korea
View the documentE. India: An evaluation of a series of Slum Improvement Programmes
View the documentF. Conclusions: Assessing the experience of projects/programmes aimed at improving the human settlements conditions of the world’s urban poor

E. India: An evaluation of a series of Slum Improvement Programmes

In 1991 it was estimated there were about 48 million slum dwellers in urban areas in India and 40 per cent of these were concentrated in the metropolitan cities. For many years the Federal and State governments have pursued programmes aimed at upgrading and relocating slum settlements. In the late 1960s and early 1970s slum settlements were an emerging phenomenon and were regarded as ‘unfit’ and deplorable environments and were subjected to clearance and relocation programmes. These schemes were expensive, insensitive to the needs of slum dwellers, and the forcible clearance operations were widely despised by slum dwellers and civil servants alike.

In 1972 the government adopted a different approach by introducing the centrally sponsored EIUS programme. The underlying objective of these schemes was to provide collectivized basic services in slum settlements. Thus 100 per cent grants were available, calculated on a per capita rate, for the provision of water supplies, community sanitation, drainage, paved pathways, street lighting, etc. Whilst the scheme provided for the acquisition of private lands, the states and municipalities have concentrated on the improvement of slums on public land and only in exceptional cases have these schemes been extended to private landholdings (e.g. Calcutta and Kanpur). The state governments have not followed a uniform policy over EIUS, however. Some state governments have passed legislation to ensure a systematic approach to the problem, whilst others have pursued ad hoc policies and procedures.

Evaluations of the EIUS scheme have offered a series of criticisms:

· the projects have tended to be rigid and inflexible, with a social welfare and paternalist orientation;

· rarely have the prescribed standards actually been met, due to locational and cost constraints;

· there has been insufficient funds to tackle the programmes on an adequate scale;

· no workable arrangements are devised for the management and maintenance of EIUS schemes;

· slum communities have not been involved in discussions about the standards of provision or the maintenance of the services;

· there has been no concern for the convergence of other basic services or assistance with actual home improvements; and

· no steps have been taken to incorporate the slum settlements into the overall planning and infrastructure framework of towns and cities (Shah, 1994).

Accordingly, when World Bank assisted Slum Upgrading Programmes (SUPs) were adopted during the 1980s, some of these criteria were addressed in a more ambitious approach:

· a more comprehensive perspective towards urban development has been adopted, in which SUPs are orientated towards the upgrading of slums in an entire town or city;

· the legalizing of the status of slum dwellers has been a major step forward, thus creating the opportunity for further investment and development in slum settlements;

· the provision of services has improved on the ‘Spartan’ standards of EIUS, including the opportunity for home improvement loans;

· the involvement of the slum dwellers is sought and encouraged at each stage of the programme; and

· unlike the 100 per cent funding provided by EIUS, however, the World Bank-assisted schemes are entirely on the basis of loan finance, and a strong emphasis is placed upon full cost recovery.

Like the EIUS programmes, however, the actual implementation of the programmes has not met with the conceptual expectations. There are difficulties over cost recovery. These difficulties range from the practical, where local authorities simply do not have efficient mechanisms for cost recovery; through the political, where politicians may ‘defend’ the interests of a community over nonpayment in return for its support; to the ideological, where communities used to highly subsidized, state-led programmes are not convinced of the need for repayment. Issues of land tenure are proving more complicated than anticipated. The acquisition of private lands is expensive for municipal authorities starved of resources; the redesignation of use of public lands a lengthy and bureaucratic exercise; and at the level of the slum communities themselves there may be some negative reaction to the enhanced liabilities (such as property taxation), which the ‘advantages’ of ownership may bring (Shah, 1994). Experience from various SUPs also shows that, on the whole, the process of decision-making is still not vested with local communities and such tokenism can lead to indifferent levels of community participation during the implementation of projects.

Within this context, another series of continuing Slum Improvement Programmes has been undertaken in a partnership between the ODA, the Government of India and a number of state governments.

1. The scope of the Slum Improvement Projects (SIPs)

The SIP programme was initiated in Andra Pradesh with ODA support for the well-known Hyderabad Urban Community Development Project. The municipal authority effectively adopted a community development approach to a city-wide slum-improvement programme. To this was added, firstly, the support of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) for its Basic Services Programme, and subsequently the support of ODA, in providing a substantial grant for physical provision, and additional inputs for health, education and other socio-economic programmes. This integrated approach was extended to two other cities in the state (Visakhapatnam and Vijaysawada), before subsequently being extended to Calcutta (West Bengal) and Indore (Madhya Pradesh). The scope of the projects may be seen from the objectives of the Indore SIP (1989) which seeks to:

· integrate the slums into the economic and social networks of the city;

· improve physical living conditions for some of the poorest urban families;

· increase standards of health, literacy and basic education;

· increase income-earning potential;

· develop community organization and institutions;

· provide security of tenure;

· encourage self-help improvement of housing;

· strengthen local government, NGOs and the slum communities to ensure that the assets created are properly maintained and the project benefits are sustained; and

· improve housing conditions in areas adjacent to the slums, and lead to a general improvement in health standards in relation to water-borne diseases in the city as a whole.

Whilst these are indicative of the aims of all five projects, each one is part of an evolutionary approach, adapting to experience of good practice and to differing local circumstances. The projects thus have wide-ranging briefs, not merely to improve the physical infrastructure and environment, but to increase the earning capacity of slum-dwellers and their quality of life through other health and educational programmes; to develop local organizational capacity to assist with the delivery of programmes through community development and leadership programmes (especially with regard to women); and to establish systems and procedures for the maintenance of the projects and their future sustainability.

2. The social impact of the SIP projects

Whilst, for the most part, the SIP projects have been effectively targeted on the urban poor, there has been some criticism that the projects have used slum settlements as a proxy for the settlements of the poor. The selection of slum settlements was largely left to the local authorities and, as a result, has concentrated on ‘unobjectionable slums’ rather than those in the worst condition. The projects did not make any particular provision for pavement dwellers, moreover, despite the fact that the National Housing Policy (Government of India, 1992b) sees them as a more urgent priority for attention than slum dwellers. A further related criticism is that whilst one of the aims of the projects is to integrate the slums into the economic and social networks of the city this cannot be achieved whilst they remain as recognizable ‘projects’; rather they need to form part of a city-wide poverty alleviation strategy. This means integrating the projects into the economic and employment strategy of the cities just as much as it does ensuring they are part of the physical planning framework, or an integral part of the city-wide network of infrastructure.

Owing to the differing regulatory frameworks concerning the notification and regulation of slum settlements in the different states, the SIPs have not been able to exercise a consistent policy over the conferment of occupancy rights. This is so even despite the fact that security of tenure is widely acknowledged as crucial to the sustained enjoyment of the benefits of the projects and to the prevention of the involuntary displacement of existing occupants. At the same time, the state governments differ over the assistance given to householders in the form of loans for house improvement. These variations in the application of policy have resulted in different outcomes as far as housing upgrading is concerned. In Indore - where there is very progressive legislation for the regularization of the occupancy of slum dwellers on public land, and assistance with loans towards housing improvement - there has been a much higher level of induced private investment than in Calcutta where there is confusion over occupancy rights arising from a three tier tenancy structure and no organized assistance for housing loans. This stresses the need for a systematic policy framework towards housing for the poor.

A further problem has arisen over infrastructure costs. The costs have varied across the five projects. In all cases, however, they are above the per capita norm (of Rs.525) for the EIUS schemes, sometimes by as much as five times. In circumstances where the projects do not afford comprehensive coverage of slum settlements this raises the question of the opportunity costs of more intensive expenditure in some areas than others and the political difficulties which this may generate. The extent of the difficulties is underlined by the fact that the financial allocation towards just one city in the SIP programme is roughly equivalent to the planned expenditure commitment of the Madhya Pradesh Urban Welfare Department, which is responsible for slum improvement, rehabilitation of the landless, urban employment and municipal strengthening across the entire state, over a similar time period.

To the problem of costs is added a complication over implementation. There are now three ‘models’ for slum improvement in operation in India (EIUS, the National Plan Programme; the World Bank schemes; and the SIPs). EIUS and the SIPs are both grant based schemes whilst the World Bank’s programme promotes full recovery of costs on land and infrastructural investment. Where two or more of these programmes are operating simultaneously in the same state this can lead to unnecessary confusion between bureaucrats and beneficiaries alike.

An overall evaluation of the components of the SIP projects reveals varied outcomes from genuinely successful innovation through to some disappointments. Founded very much on the principle of community participation, this has been a very prominent and successful feature of the projects. In each case a very extensive range of community initiatives and activities has been developed and where project completion is nearing, arrangements are underway for local neighbourhood councils to assume substantial responsibilities for the continuing management of these initiatives. In the earlier projects, now nearing completion, the major challenge is to sustain this wide range of activities once the formal funding for support staff has ended. This issue of sustainability is also receiving greater attention in the later projects.

As far as infrastructural provision is concerned, apart from the general problem over costs already mentioned, these programmes appear to have been successfully implemented. The Indore SIP, however, has been particularly successful in both the design and implementation of an innovative infrastructural system. This has been designed to lower costs, reduce the maintenance responsibilities of the municipality, whilst increasing those on the community, and to permit the phased linkage of slum settlements to the overall infrastructure network of the city.

Where relocation programmes have been undertaken, however, these have met with mixed success. A recent review of the relocation component of schemes yet to be undertaken has concluded a need to bring thinking more into line with requirements to consolidate, wherever possible, in-situ solutions to the problems of slum settlements.

The health and education components have also been successful, and some extremely so. Again, the major concern is over sustaining the levels of provision and service delivery which has been achievable under an externally funded project oriented framework when this organizational structure is replaced by the mainstream service delivery programmes of the statutory and voluntary services.

The weakest component of the projects has been the Economic Support Programmes and it has been clear that this is an area where there is least experience. Whilst a range of training and enterprise initiatives have been established; revolving loan funds set up and small loans disbursed; and expertise and advice from a range of institutions mobilized, the success rate in micro-enterprise development has not been good and experience with loan recovery poor. More recently, the projects have tended to move away from revolving loan funds towards the encouragement of thrift and credit cooperatives and towards more active links with local businesses. The major difficulties appear to be a lack of experienced staff; and absence of a strategic framework for training and employment initiatives, given that these initiatives often begin in a policy vacuum without an informed knowledge of the nature of the local economy or the operation of the local labour market.

Two further issues are raised by the projects, the first is the question of sustainability and the second, the replicability of the projects. As the earlier projects are now nearing their formal completion it is evident that there are likely to be some serious problems in continuing the sustainability of some elements of the projects as delivered so far. Some components, such as infrastructure provision, require a major investment and thereafter there is the question of maintenance; other components, like some health and educational projects, are continuing and the absence of continued funding calls in question their future continuity. This is a major problem with externally funded projects. The second issue is the related one of replicability. It is evident that the projects have developed a strong and independent organization and framework which, in some instances, has neither been properly integrated with the local state and municipal administrative structure, nor with the norms and procedures of indigenous programmes such as EIUS and the Urban Basic Services Programme. Discussions are currently underway between the Government of India and ODA as to how continuing support for slum upgrading programmes can be more effectively integrated within administrative and legal frameworks, whilst at the same time adding support to the Government of India’s strategic approach to urban poverty alleviation.

3. Conclusions

The SIP schemes illustrate both the strengths and weaknesses of the project-oriented approach to slum improvement and poverty alleviation. On the one hand the projects are well organized, adequately funded and are able to deploy staffing levels and adopt norms and expenditure levels which are able to impact positively on the quality of life of the beneficiaries. On the other hand, the projects are selective rather than comprehensive, they tend to develop an independent managerial orientation and the different norms and standards tend to be difficult to sustain and replicate when the projects come to an end.

To overcome some of these problems, more comprehensive city-wide programmes could be developed, rather than localized projects. This would ensure that programme staff are accountable within the existing administrative and legal frameworks; that the main thrusts of policy are consistent with strategic approaches of the government and municipal authorities; and that norms and expenditure levels are agreed in such a way that they do not create problems of opportunity cost for the future.

The SIPs however, have been important and innovative projects which have encouraged effective partnerships between statutory agencies (at state and municipal levels), NGOs and local communities to tackle physical, social and economic problems in a series of slum communities. The projects have demonstrated the importance of sound leadership and local political support. Whilst not all components of the projects have been successful, the systematic monitoring of the projects has enabled adaptation and modification from one project to another and has enabled an evolutionary development over time. The SIPs offer invaluable experience for others undertaking programmes of slum improvement and urban poverty alleviation.