China and India have in the last decade improved the lives of more slum dwellers than any other country in the world, a UN-HABITAT report has said.
The two countries have together lifted at least 125 million people out of slum conditions between 1990 and 2010, the report, titled State of the World Cities 2010/2011: Bridging the Urban Divide, said. It was released at the World Urban Forum in Rio de Janeiro in March.
India has been able to lift 59.7 million people out of slum conditions since 2000. This has resulted in a decrease in the country’s overall slum population from 41.5 per cent in 1990 to 28.1 per cent in 2010.
According to the 2001 census figures, India is home to 61.8 million slum dwellers.
Building skills of the urban poor in their chosen business, providing basic services and development within slum settlements, improving their access to serviced low-cost housing and subsidised housing finance are some of the reasons the report gave for the decline in the number of slum dwellers in India.
India’s achievement, however, pales in comparison with China. The Chinese urban population living in slums declined from 37.3 per cent in 2000 to 28.2 per cent in 2010, helping improve the condition of 65.3 million urban residents who were earlier deprived of shelter. The slum population in the country is 150 million.
However, professor Amitabh Kundu of the School of Social Sciences, JNU, felt that better slum alleviation policies were just partly responsible for the decline in Indian and Chinese slum populations. The main reason was what he calls “exclusionary urbanisation”.
“Cities are being sanitised to cater to the needs of the urban elite. In their need for a clean environment, they have become selective. It has resulted in slum dwellers being pushed to the periphery. In cities, the cost of basic services has gone up, making urban centres unaffordable for the poor,” Kundu said.