Slums developments across the world

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Humans are becoming an urban species

In 2008 for the first time in history more people lied in cities than in rural areas.

One third of these urban dwellers, more than 1 billion people, live in slums.

The UN forecasts that the number of slum dwellers will double in the next 25 years. As a result, urban slums are now the world's fastest growing habitat.

A slum household is defined by the United Nations as a group of individuals living under the same roof lacking one or more1 of the following conditions:

  • Access to improved water
  • Access to improved sanitation
  • Sufficient-living area
  • Durability of housing
  • Security of tenure

They exist outside the official city grid, built without architects or municipal maps, and are in a constant state of transition.

Deprived areas around big cities can be known by various names including barrios, favelas, slums, shantytowns or zopadpattis. These slum areas can be found in or around urban areas in different continents across the world. 

4 slum locations across the world

This map shows the location of four such areas (from left to right): 

Barrios in Caracas, Venezuela

Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, is located in a valley. The wealthier residents and businesses are located in the valley floor.

Caracas slum in Venezuela

But look up towards the hills and you will see the steep hillsides lined with shantytowns, known as Barrios. In the last 50 years the population of Caracas has quadrupled, fuelled by Venezuela's oil boom.

But it is estimated that 50 percent of those living here still live in poor neighbourhoods known as barrios.

These areas also face serious security issues, with gang warfare, drug dealing, robbery and other volent crimes common.

Dharavi Zopadpatti in 
Mumbai, India

Dharavi is the world's most densely populated urban area. This one square mile neighbourhood in the heart of Mumbai is estimated to be home to up to one million people.     

Dharavi, Mumbai in India - Flickr mcluhan69
Image: Flickr, mcluhan69

Migrants labourers and long-term residents work day and night in thousands of single-room factories, businesses and sweatshops known as zopadpattis. Sewing clothes, working in tanneries, bakeries and recycling all manner of waste are some of the activities that can be found here.


Kibera slum, Nairobi, Kenya

Kibera is East Africa's largest slum. It is only the size of Central Park in New York City, yet it is home to over 700,000 people, who live in thousands of 10-by-10 feet shacks. This makes up one-quarter of Nairobi's total population. 

Kibera, Nairobi

There are no paved roads so residents use the active railway track that cuts through the centre of Kibera.

As the settlement is unauthorized, it is excluded from official urban plans and has no public water, sanitation, schools or health care.

Kibera is often the first stop for rural migrants who have travelled from their villages to the city to find work.

However, looking at these urban areas from the inside can bring a surprising perspective. 

Robert Neuwirth spent two years in squatter cities on four continents to research his book Shadow Cities. Watch the video below to hear more.

Robert Neuwirth is speaking at the Royal Geographical Society on 6 December. More details » 

Isang Litrong Liwanag which means A Liter of Light, is a sustainable lighting project which aims to bring the eco-friendly Solar Bottle Bulb to disprivileged communities nationwide. 

Designed and developed by students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the Solar Bottle Bulb is based on the principles of Appropriate Technologies – a concept that provides simple and easily replicable technologies that address basic needs in developing communities.

 Isang Litrong Liwanag » 

Adapting to an urban future

Adapting to an urban future - 6 December

ROBERT NEUWIRTH - Author of Shadow Cities: A Billion Squatters, A New Urban World,
DOUG SAUNDERS - Author of Arrival City: How the largest migration in history is reshaping our world
PETER BISHOP - former director of Design for London
SAMIRA AHMED (chair) - braodcaster and journalist

Further details »

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