With over 40 per cent of the urban population of Asia and Pacific countries living in slums, and apprehensions about the global slum population reaching 1.4 billion mark by 2020, with a majority from these nations, top experts and housing ministers of the region began deliberations here on Wednesday to identify strategies for promoting low-cost housing and slum-free cities.
The Asia-Pacific region is undergoing an urbanisation boom with more than half of the world's mega cities that contain a population of over 10 million people. The majorities of these urban dwellers in the region lives in shanties and have access to vastly inadequate civic services and infrastructure.
If this situation remained unchanged, by 2020 one out of every two slum-dwellers in the world would be from Asia, it was noted with concern at the first Asia Pacific Ministers' Conference on Housing and Human Settlements.
Urban Development Minister S Jaipal Reddy stated on the occasion that this was a much-need forum to evolve a common perspective among countries of Asia-Pacific region on these issues and enable them to present a common stand in regional and international fora.
This would present them with an opportunity to learn best practices towards affordable housing and discuss new initiatives in the area of public policy for housing and human settlements, he felt.
Housing ministers, top bureaucrats, urban planning experts and representatives of NGOs from 30 countries are participating in the conference.
After four-day deliberations, the meet will adopt a framework on 'sustainable housing and human settlements' in the region and come out with a Delhi Declaration.
Noting that the urban population in India had reached 285.4 million in 2001, mainly in 5,000 towns and cities of various sizes, Reddy stated that the "dynamics of urban human settlement required to be managed by integrated local planning" and sharing of financial, managerial and technical resources among the local bodies.
Minister of State for Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation Kumari Selja told delegates that the UPA Government had launched the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) last year for a focused approach towards housing, slum development and basic services to the poor.
The mission aims at bringing about mandatory reforms both at state and municipal levels to improve basic services delivery and ensure security of tenure to the urban poor, she said.