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How to improve living conditions of slum-dwellers

A look at how Kozhikode is going to tackle problems posed by slum proliferation

Urbanisation is an irreversible force. And more and more people flow from villages to cities and towns today than at any other time. Kozhikode too supports such migrants.

Urban development and the increasing population have brought with it a multitude of social and economic problems. Proliferation of slums is one such.

Earlier, slums were believed to have been confined to mega cities, such as Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata. But now, the problem has gripped even smaller cities such as Kozhikode.

As rapid urbanisation makes slums grow faster, civic authorities struggle to tackle enormous problems. It poses a daunting challenge to policymakers because slums have created extreme inequalities.

Authorities in Kozhikode have been initiating a process to root out the problems. Previously, the City Corporation had taken loans from various sources to take up projects for improving the conditions of slum-dwellers. Most of the projects did not help.

Of late, the civic body has been trying to build houses and infrastructure in slums using an Asian Development Bank (ADB) loan and the Centrally sponsored Integrated Housing and Slum Development Programme.

Deputy Mayor P.T. Abdul Latheef says the programme has been primarily envisaged to solve the problem of housing for slum-dwellers.

It will also help build infrastructure. The Centre has approved Rs. 7.15 crore for a project submitted by the corporation. The scheme will benefit Kothi and Bangaladesh Colony slums.

The Corporation has contributed Rs. 47 lakh, while the State government and the Centre will share the balance. In the coming years, the Corporation will submit proposals estimated at Rs. 50 crore for projects to be implemented till 2012, Mr. Latheef says. The Kerala Sustainable Urban Development Programme, funded by the ADB loan, will improve the condition of 16 slums in the city. The total cost is Rs. 45 crore. The schemes, divided into the Community Infrastructure Fund and the Poverty Social Fund, will be implemented within five years.

Mr. Latheef has mooted bringing 750 Kudumbasree volunteers engaged in door-to-door collection of garbage daily under the ambit of the urban poverty alleviation scheme. It entails empowerment of slum-dwellers and improving their living conditions, through upgrading and expanding urban infrastructure, he says.

Five persons from a unit can avail a grant of Rs 1.5 lakh. Around 50 per cent of the funds can be secured through subsidies. While the beneficiary remits five per cent of the amount, the rest can be shared by the banks. More funds can be released according to submission of projects under both the funds.

A year ago, the corporation envisaged a shelter-upgrade programme for 79 identified slums in four phases. The scheme was worked out under a housing project of the Development Plan for Kozhikode Agglomeration.

The largest of these at Chakkumkadavu has a population of more than 5,000. The total slum population in the city is 84,000, about 19 per cent of the city’s population of 4.37 lakh.

And about 65 per cent of poor families in the city live in slums.

Ten to 15 slums have not been officially notified.

The slums have over 12,000 households, with an average gross residential density of 217 persons a hectare. Half the housing units are kutcha (poor), 38 per cent semi-pucca (satisfactory) and 12 per cent pucca (good), says a case study conducted by an ADB team a few years ago. The slum density in Kozhikode is not as depressing as in many other Indian cities.

BIJU GOVIND

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