An Inclusive Approach for Urban Poor

Working with the approach of including urban poor and vulnerable communities in the planning and decision making processes, CHF International has definitely made an attempt to develop more resilient cities around the world. I read an article by David Weiss (President and CEO of CHF International), that talks about CHF’s recent experiences in India and the measurable impact of planning not “for,” but with the urban poor in one of the world’s most populated regions- the city of Pune.

Near Mumbai, the city of Pune is the eighth largest metropolis in India with a population of about five million people — and 1 million of them live in slums. By 2025, the population of the Pune-Mumbai “mega region” is expected to hit nearly 50 million people. Just as they have in many cities around the world, in Pune slums are growing. In the absence of affordable housing, newcomers to Pune found shelter in squatter settlements, typically on land unsuitable or unattractive to real estate developers. These communities lack basic services. For example, thousands of slum households in Pune have no access to sanitation facilities and must resort to open defecation.

With funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s department of Special Initiatives, CHF started a program called SCALE- UP in India and Ghana, designed to improve living conditions and incomes of these vulnerable populations, thereby contributing to their resilience. In Pune, we helped support both local governments and the urban poor in exploring the conditions of their communities in order to take action – a skill that will be increasingly needed in the face of climate change. In two years, having mobilized their own resources and those of the local government, 130 slum communities in Pune implemented projects that they wanted, and on their terms. The improvements included a solid waste management program, better water connections, sanitation access, and the development of renewable energy sources. The city also introduced property tax incentives to encourage households to use rainwater harvesting. Flooding decreased in the city, and Pune has been recognized for the tangible results they achieved. The vulnerability of slum communities has by no means been solved yet in Pune, but by championing this approach forward, we know that there will be a legacy of empowerment behind every brick and mortar solution.

There is a lot to learn from this approach of including vulnerable communities in their own betterment.The urban poor have incredible capacity to invest in their progress. All that they need is a little support from those who possess power and resources.

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