The massive environmental strain that the uncontrollable growth of slum expansion brings is well known: despite many base of the pyramid communities being highly resourceful in their own right, waste pollution, poor sanitation and undersupplied water are just a handful of the problems that continue to boost the increasingly unhealthy state of developing world cities. The lack of enforceable control and complementary infrastructure further exacerbates the problem – with many slums located in highly vulnerable areas close to flooding, earthquakes zones and other natural dangers.
What makes the situation particularly frustrating is the lack of dialogue and debate over genuinely workable solutions. The handful of NGO and impact investment interests involved in the sector remain staunch supporters of initiatives such as housing microfinance, slum improvement technical support and peripheral single storey house creation – failing to acknowledge the downsides of these objectives, particularly in the long term. Whilst rarely admitted openly, developing world slums are now considered part of our global future and plans of revolutionising the sector with new paradigms are viewed as an “impossibility”. The developed world continually fails to provide the necessary support beyond financially feeding NGOs who, whilst applying noble efforts, lack the capacity or commercial know-how to project the sector where it needs to be.
Another important contributory factor to this impending time bomb is politically related: with developing world urban regions expanding at an unprecedented pace, the interests of the poor are rarely prioritised as a core development strategy, with profit led objectives invariably dominating urban decision making (especially when land transactions are involved). Additionally, there is the distinct lack of environmentally sustainable affordable housing models; the sophisticated systems endorsed by organisations such as the Green Building Council, despite having an important remit in construction development, fail to tackle the broader concerns of the majority.
Most people’s reaction to the slum crisis is of shock and disgust – blaming governments, capitalism or both. Yet an air of apathy remains and impactful campaigning to demand answers related to these highly complex circumstances is virtually non-existent. Why is NGO activity in housing barely even scratching the surface? Why are governments not being called into account with regards to their archaic attitudes to sustainable housing policy? What can be done to stop the fierce corruption in the developing world construction and urban development sectors? Why are the countless and frequently unjustifiable urban evictions of the poor being allowed to occur with impunity? The sooner questions like these are hammered out, the sooner we can drive the sector in the correct and deserved direction. In short, a world without slums is possible.