What are the issues for people living in squatter settlements in poorer parts of the world
The speed of the urbanisation process in many poorer areas of the world results in squatter settlements (shanty towns) being built and the evolution of an informal sector of the economy. The pace of rural-urban migration is too fast to allow the time needed to build proper houses and for the economy to grow to provide jobs. People find unoccupied areas of land and materials and begin to build their own makeshift shelters. As there are few official jobs available, people create their own employment: selling items; making and repairing things on a small scale; becoming couriers, cleaners, gardeners; taking in laundry.
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Living in squatter settlements
· settlements are unplanned so the houses do not have basic infrastructure such as sanitation, piped water, electricity and road access
· houses are made of any material available nearby – corrugated iron, pieces of board – haphazardly assembled to provide a basic shelter
· houses have a simple layout that may have a living area separate from a sleeping area
· parents and large families inhabit a small shack which is often overcrowded and the squatter settlements are very overcrowded
· there are no toilets, water must be collected from a nearby source – often at a cost – and carried back
· rubbish is not collected and the area quickly degenerates into a place of filth and disease
· the inhabitants tend to create poorly paid jobs where the income is unreliable or they work in the less well-paid jobs part of the formal sector
· quality of life is poor; the housing and environment are largely responsible for this
· the residents have very little money so cannot improve their homes or environments
· crime is a problem, children often do not go to school, the family lives on top of each other, there is no privacy, disease is rife and life is one of trying to survive from one day to the next
Where are squatter settlements located in urban areas?
Squatter settlements are found on areas of undesirable land:
· near airports
· near motorways
near railway lines
· near rubbish tips
· uneven ground
Strategies to improve living conditions
Improvement by residents involves the residents seeking to ‘do up’ their original shelters. This means replacing flimsy, temporary materials with more permanent brick and concrete; catching rainwater in a tank on the roof; and obtaining an electricity supply (often illegally by tapping into a nearby source). Such improvements are slow and individual – not all the problems of poor living conditions can be solved.
Self-help occurs where local authorities support the residents of the squatter settlements in improving their homes. This involves the improvements outlined above, but it is more organised. There is cooperation between residents to work together and remove rubbish. There is also cooperation from local authority, which offers grants, cheap loans and possibly materials to encourage improvements to take place. Standpipes are likely to be provided for access to water supply and sanitation. Collectively, the residents, with help from the local authority, may begin to build health centres and schools. Legal ownership of the land is granted to encourage improvements to take place, marking an acceptance of the housing.
Site and service schemes
Site and service schemes are a more formal way of helping squatter settlements residents. Land is identified for the scheme. The infrastructure is laid in advance of settlement, so that water, sanitation and electricity are properly supplied in individually marked plots. People then build their homes using whatever materials they can afford at the time. They can add to and improve the structure if finances allow later.
Local authority schemes can take a number of different forms. There may be large-scale improvements made to some squatter settlements or new towns may be constructed. In Cairo, new settlements such as 10th of Ramadan City were built to reduce pressure on the city. High-rise blocks of flats were built, together with shops, a primary school and a mosque. Industries were also planned to provide jobs for the new inhabitants.