Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Mumbai: Housing for the poor and its constant change of usage By, Sheela Patel

Whenever the state government of Maharashtra has taken up new and interesting possibilities to address the challenges of housing the poor, it gets side tracked by a paradoxical impact of poor supervision of governance architecture needed to ensure it reaches the people it was meant for.  Housing possibilities remain in a constant state of crisis because any empty space gets used up for alternative uses; and because the construction industry which explores construction opportunities in the name of the poor fails to address solutions for the bottom 40% in the city.

Six years ago, the Government of Maharashtra took a bold decision to build small tenements which would be given to the poor for rent. The rental housing scheme would be taken up by the private sector and they would get a good TDR return for tenements which in turn they would give back to the government. MMRDA would then hand these tenements over to organizations to manage according to a governance framework to be developed alongside the construction.  A total of 500,000 units were to be constructed. The initial tenements were constructed but when a new leadership took office, the MMRDA preferred to sell rather than rent the houses.

The 500,000 houses were never built. But the ones that were built remained empty since the MMRDA did not develop the management strategy and framework for supervision. When buildings collapsed these were the only tenements that were available and thus were used as transits accommodation.  Transit accommodation generally knows several generations until the time when residents forget where their grandparents were moved out from and build their lives around these localities.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Visitors to SPARC in 2013

In 2013 SPARC met with various interesting visitors from both national and international agencies.  Following is a list of few of the visitors that piqued our interest:
  1. Nancy Mean from the World Economic Forum, Geneva, Switzerland visited SPARC in March – Nancy wanted to learn more about what the Alliance does and how it functions. She visited Mankhurd to talk to the families which shifted there from along the railway tracks.
  2. Ameya A. from IITB visited SPARC in April – Ameya visited Manhkhurd sites with mobile workshop team (2 logistic people) with Keya and Sharmila for planning of HOLCIM visit on 12th April 2013.
  3. Yogesh Shetye of YES bank visited SPARC in April – Mr. Yogesh visited SPARC's project sites at Mankhurd (Milan Nagar, Bldg 98) and Ekta Hind Community toilet with Mr. Joshi, Aseena, and Keya.
  4. Heather McGray & Ayesha Dinshaw from World Resources Institute visited SPARC in April - to learn what the Alliance does and how it functions. The purpose of their visit was to discuss climate change in context to urban areas.
  5. Ministry of State for Housing, Uganda visited SPARC in May - 6 delegates from the Ugandan Ministry came to India; before visiting SPARC they visited the Pune BSUP sites/ Sanitation projects/ Mankhurd relocation site with Jockin and federation. One of the delegates wanted to know the different instructional structure associated with all of the above projects and he wanted additional reports and documents to learn more.
  6. Mr. Ramon J Gray,the Managing Director of Polycare Research Technology, UK visited SPARC in May - Polycare Research Technology UK has invented a new way of making resin based concrete that allows practically any locally available aggregate to be used as the main (87%) filler component. It was in this regard that Mr Gray visited SPARC to discuss the possible opportunities for his company in the Indian Market. He was further taken on a field visit to Milan Nagar.
  7. P.V. Viswanath, the Director of Global Portfolio Analysis Centre & Professor of Finance, Lubin School of Business, Pace University,New York visited SPARC in June - Professor Viswanath visited SPARC to learn about the work of the Alliance specifically about savings and credit. Prof. Viswanath teaches micro finance and wants to bring a group of students for an exposure visit to India; this was also one of the reasons for his visit to SPARC.
  8. Diana Mitlin, Gayatri Menon from Manchester University & Tom from DFID visited Pune MM in August – they talked to the Mahila Milan of Pune regarding BSUP, other housing projects, taking their opinion on how far has the municipality been able to provide them with the services and what more can it do. Visited some houses constructed as well as under construction under the BSUP project and also spoke to some community members.
  9. Students and Professors from UMEA University Sweden visited SPARC in October – During their visit, Sheela spoke about SPARC and its work and Keya talked about incremental study.

Mumbai: Planning for 58% with Inaccurate Data by, Sheela Patel

The aspirations for the slum dwellers that came with setting up SPARC in the 1980's didn't materialize because the limitations of the municipality or government because of the DP (Development Plan). Carefully study of the plans indicated that there were spaces available to house the slum dwellers; in reality however the space or land was always used for different purposes and thus occupied. In frustration, SPARC raised this issue with the then Chief Secretary of Maharashtra who had also been the municipal commissioner of Mumbai.  His comment on the development plan was (with a benignly smile) that the DP is a manifestation of what we envision, but reality is very different. In layman terms it translates to the urban poor can’t ask the city for land for housing because all the land that they have earmarked for the poor is already occupied.

The DP which is being prepared today is haunted by incorrectness of the past: lack of accurate data and unclear and contradictory data sets. When challenges to plan are not accommodated and addressed in each plan, they clearly produce unregulated response. The poor squat if they can’t find a space to stay near work; the elite equally ignore the rules. Both pay bribes for the regulatory process to ignore their presence and turn a blind eye, and the unregulated growth increases exponentially.
Manipulating the data is a routine strategy of the government agencies. The state and city institutions are known to inflate and deflate the data on poverty slums based on whom the report is being prepared for.  The data used for preparing the Mumbai DP states that there is a 18% dip in slums; the information is quite vague is you consider the following facts: How do we link this to the fact that the census definition requires a slum cluster to have more than a certain number of dwelling to be counted under the census connect with this factor? What do we do when even lower level government data collection refuses to count the households who live as renters in the mezzanines of huts?

Ongoing Saga of the Slums Along the Airport by, Sheela Patel

The slum along the Mumbai airport contains over 98,000 structures and to date remains a crucially unsolved challenge for the development of the airport. The resident’s networks, that are part of NSDF city federation, have promised to willingly concede land that the airport wants for its infrastructure if the remaining land not needed for the development will be made available to them.  The residents wish to live in SRA ground plus 5 buildings. For many years the contract to build alternative housing for slums along the airport was given to a construction firm HDIL.  276 acres of encroached land was to be “cleared” as households would move to sites nearby. The unusual act of getting transferred development rights for the 7000 structures in which no one has moved yet has been noted by the CAG in his report. There are numerous other challenges that have also impeded this process.  For example:
  • The state cannot undertake surveys until it clears eligibility norms, which should be structure for structure; the High court says the year 2000 cut off is acceptable. Thus only a very small percentage is eligible.
  • Residents what to be assured that the whole community get houses which are nearby; only 7000 are nearby so the residents have refused to move.
  • The deal for GVK and HDIL does not become profitable unless the land use for commercial purpose is accepted; this has resulted to a standoff.

 In the meanwhile the new terminal with huge array of art work is to be opened on Feb 14.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

James Westcott from OMA

James Westcott, from OMA in Rotterdam, is researching material for his book called “Elements of Architecture,” for which he is researching the history and the current status of elements like the floor, the door, the wall, the ceiling, the roof, and of course the toilet. The book is part of the Venice Architecture Biennale this June, directed by Rem Koolhaas.  James is focusing on Dharavi as a demonstration of how the western model of flush toilet + sewage system isn’t achievable or sustainable in most parts of the world. He has asked SPARC for assistance and for the map that SPARC is making of the toilets built by SPARC. 
Down Memory Lane: the inception of CLIFF

A DFID financed research commissioned to Homeless International (HI) adhered to the experience of the Indian alliance and other SDI affiliates to demonstrate the fact that organised communities of the urban poor were capable of producing projects to house themselves.  The challenge was to develop financing strategies that would accommodate the urban poor to improve the quality of their lives with the solutions and strategies that they developed. Ruth Macleod and the HI team worked with Sheela Patel and the Indian Alliance as well as the many affiliates of SDI to document evidence that communities could drive such processes. It was ostensibly a research project, but DFID actually agreed with the proposition and Community Led Infrastructure Finance Facility (CLIFF) was born; the first project financed through the facility was the Rajeev Indira Housing Cooperative society.

On the 24th of February 2002, the Rajeev Indira Cooperative society was inaugurated. The project brought the entire state government machinery of Maharashtra from its Chief secretary, its Housing department and  city officials to inaugurate the first self managed slum redevelop project in the city. Mahila Milan and NSDF leaders from all over the country attended the inauguration also.