Strengthening Civil Society Voices on Urban Poverty

Posts Under Strengthening Civil Society Voices on Urban Poverty

“People-centric approach crucial in urban development”

“People-centric approach crucial in urban development”


A ‘Right to the City’ Campaign was launched earlier this month in Delhi! Realising that half of the country’s population will call urban India home by 2025; The Right to the City campaign aims at making urban spaces more inclusive, keeping in mind the lakhs of migrants that move here from rural India every year.

Patiala MP and member of the Standing Committee on Urban Development Dharamvir Gandhi, who attended the launch, said there was a need for people-centric approaches in urban development. From recreational spaces to adequate housing, making the rights of an urban citizen integral to planning is the agenda of the campaign.

“We may be going to Mars and starting bullet trains, but it means nothing when UNICEF says 40 per cent of Indian children are malnourished. We need to ensure a just society for the working class as it creates wealth,” said the Aam Aadmi Party MP.

He said that it would be a long-drawn process and pressure would have to be put on the government, but “just cities” would be on the agenda. Mr. Gandhi said with the government planning on launching ‘smart cities’ there was a need to make sure that the urban poor were not excluded. As per its draft charter, the campaign will support the urban poor, advocate with government agencies for their concerns, and start periodicals and an e-resource centre.

Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation Secretary Anita Agnihotri said Delhi was “becoming more exclusionary”.

“When we plan for cities, we have to plan for all. People will come to cities, whether you like it or not. For quite a while now, we have stopped preparations for new migrants,” said Ms. Agnihotri.

She said the Narendra Modi government had planned 100 smart cities, 500 new cities, and heritage cities. But, she said that policies would have to be people-centric.

“We plan housing with the aim to get land vacated, but we need to plan with people in mind. We made 10 lakh houses in the past decade and many people refused to move in because we never asked them what they wanted,” said the secretary.

She said urban planning must include access to services as well as employment.

The campaign’s launch saw representatives of 15 organisations come together. Similar launches will be held in other cities across the country and customised charters will be brought out.

You can participate in the campaign and see their official page at:

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Collaborating the Urban-Poor and Non- Poor: Long way to go


by Abhishek Jha, PRIA Bihar

In the last few decades Urban Poverty has been emerging as a key developmental challenge for a developing economy like India. This has also been well established by the data provided by the most recent Census of India (2011). Undoubtedly many initiatives have been taken by the government and parastatal agencies to address the challenges and issues of urban poverty, but one the problem which has remained persistent is the issue of inclusion and acceptance of the urban poor in the larger urban society.

Its notable that majority of these urban poor work in the urban informal sector which ultimately provides critical services to the cities, right from keeping the cities clean, to providing cheap labour, domestic help, cheap transport, just to name a few. The fact of lacuna in policies cannot be denied as a major cause of the exclusion of urban poor despite playing a critical role for the cities and its dwellers. But a bigger cause which generally goes unnoticed is non-acceptance of the urban poor groups in the larger urban society. To address this societal exclusion PRIA along with its active Settlement Improvement Committees (SICs) tried to collaborate with non-poor groups urban groups so that the process of inclusion can be instigated at some level. (more…)

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Terraurban- oct digest1 copy

Terra Urban Monthly Digest


Here is your quick snapshot of all activities on Terraurban for the month of October!!!
You can also download a pdf version of the same through the following link:Terraurban- oct digest

Terraurban- oct digest1 copy

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Investing thoroughly in early childhood is investing in the nation’s development

Investing thoroughly in early childhood is investing in the nation’s development


by Dharitri Patnaik, India Representative, Bernard van Leer Foundation

Young children are rarely heard. This is mostly because of the attitude we have towards children. Children are not vote banks. They do not raise their voices against injustice nor do they have unions. In order to thrive, the youngest citizens depend on the rest of us, adults to pay attention and we as a society hardly pay them the attention they deserve.

In the early years of a child’s life, 700 new neural connections are formed every second.  These connections build brain architecture – the foundation upon which all later learning, behaviour and health depend.  These neural connections shape the contours of nearly a billion young children’s futures every year.  Collectively, they represent our best opportunity to live together in a prosperous and peaceful society. So, while a happy childhood can bring the best in a person at the stage of adulthood, a stressed one can make the person vulnerable by increasing risk of stress related problems including diseases.

There are close linkages between the living conditions and wellbeing of children. Housing, water, sanitation, traffic, transportation, soil, air, quality of preschools, social network and parenting have a bearing on the child’s physical, social and emotional development. While it has been established that physical environment, including home and the neighbourhoods are one of the most important determinants of health, yet the issue of child mortality and morbidity due to living conditions are hardly on the agenda of the governments or agencies working with children.

7.8 million children live in slums in India where basic services and quality of housing is completely inadequate. But slums are not the only problem.  So why do we ignore living conditions? Why do we not include the interests of children in the design and planning process? One reason is that unlike health or education, there is no established sector that covers living conditions.  It is a mixture of planners, construction companies, urban development and housing and poverty alleviation ministries, etc. who mostly operate independent of each other.  The second, more critical issue is the lack of awareness about the issues related to physical environments and how they impact children.

Sights of children playing in extremely hazardous situations, on garbage has become common in almost all the slums in India. It is not just children living in urban poverty but also children from other socio-economic backgrounds who lack access to safe play spaces. Lack of the basic amenities such as well-ventilated houses, safe water, drainage, play space etc can lead to stress and violence. Most often we see this as violence against women and children. Tensions and fights for water in slums, lack of street lights or even lighting at home lead to further harassment and abuse of children. Cramped lanes, too tight to meet the space needs of people living in tiny shacks, shared water taps and toilets, a lack of waste collection, high noise levels, violation of perceived boundaries, can all lead to hostility and endanger the safety of children.  (Bartlett, 2013).

India’s flagship programmes such as Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JnNURM), Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY) or Basic Services to the Urban Poor (BSUP) have not been successful in addressing the housing or the living conditions of the urban poor nor are they “child friendly”. The barriers to children’s development are closely associated with these amenities and environment which we often term as ‘basic’ and also most often ignore them. While the buzz on ‘Smart Cities’ and ‘ Swaach Bharat Abhiyaan’ is getting louder, I urge upon our policymakers, urban planners, child rights activists, parents, communities and children themselves to ensure that we have the ‘basics’ in place and that these basics (housing that can accommodate a family of five, water and sanitation, well managed waste management system, electricity, play spaces etc) has to be child friendly and developed in consultation with children.

A strong foundation in early childhood lays the groundwork for responsible citizenship, economic prosperity, healthy communities, and successful parenting of the next generation. A weak foundation can seriously undermine the social and economic vitality of the nation.” Prof. Jack P. Shonkoff, Harvard University.

Bernard van Leer is an international private philanthropy focussed on early childhood development among disadvantaged children.

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How smart is the Smart City Idea !! A Thought on World Town Planning Day

How smart is the Smart City Idea !! A Thought on World Town Planning Day


Indian Towns sans planning!

by Ananta Prasad

The main challenges of urbanization in India are shortage of housing which is 18.78 million according to the 2011 census which Mr Venkeya Naidu, also stressed at the Plenary Session of Asia Pacific Ministerial Conference of Housing and Urban Development (APMCHUD) in Seoul recently.

The official statement of Minister emphasized stating that though accommodating slightly less than one third of the total population, the urban centres in India contribute a substantial part of the Gross Domestic Product already with 63 per cent in 2007 and the same is expected to increase to 75 per cent in 2021. However, the new Modi govt has their vision of Houses for all by end of 2012.

It is expected that by 2050, almost 50 percent of Indian population will constitute the urban areas and the Government of India is charged up with comprehensive urban up-liftment through improving quality of public transport, providing drainage, sanitation, waste management, water recycling and wi-fi facilities for public and commercial areas, added in the official note.

It is noted that World Town Planning Day is being celebrated in 30 countries of four continents on 8th November. It is a special day to recognize and promote the role of planning in creating livable urban communities. For fast growing countries like India the scenario of Town Planning is a myth. Sadly the town planners are yet to bring inclusive city planning. It has been a major issue in Indian cities that the urban planners have continuously ignored urban slums and the children in specific. Children and adolescents living in slums have been ignored as active stakeholder of urban renewal policies and programmes.

 According to HUPA, in India, 70.6% of urban population is covered by individual water connections while in china this is 91%, in South Africa 86% and in Brazil 80%.  Duration of water supply in India cities is between one to six hours. According to 2011 census, 13% of urban population defecate in the open, 37% are connected by open drains and 18% are not connected at all. 7.6 million young children living in urban poverty in Indian sufferer due to improper town planning in the country.The air quality has also deteriorated sharply carrying with it concomitant health costs. It has impacted directly to the children causing several diseases.

 Strategy to integrate networking of slums to city infrastructure and developing investment plans for slum infrastructure should be given priority as facts shows that slums have 20-25% of population but use less than 3 percent of land. The poor especially the children do not have any formal stake over land and hence are not a part of the planning process indicates the gap between the planners and the reality. Time has come for the planners to visioning the world class cities with proper inclusion of urban poor and young children living in it.

  It is noted that the central government has two major policies such as JnNURM and RAY for urban development where there has been plans to redevelop slums and to make India free from slums. But civil society members across India are now advocating for an inclusive development for all where women and children have equal share in the planning process and ensure a safe living condition for all.

 Keeping in mind the above statistics and information, if we analyse the statement by Naidu at Seoul things are very much superficial. The government has plans to adopt modern scientific methods of town and country planning practices based on Geographical Information System (GIS) in urban development. It is worth mentioning here that many programmes such as RAY and BSUP is facing issues like ownership of land as many slums in India are in forest lands or having such dispute. Any such relocation of people from existing set up to a farer place is simply not solving the issue of achieving Slum free India.

Again plans of extension of metro services to important and major urban centres, development of twin cities and creating infrastructure in satellite cities are other priority areas where now the new government is focusing on which is in other way ignoring the middle class which constitutes more than 40 percent in any urban settlement.

While the last budget it was announced for 100 new smart cities, now many civil society organisations have been questioning on the smartness of this smart city idea. However, every single day poor living condition is forcing most inhabitants of urban India to a unhealthy and unsafe well-being. Despite strengthening the existing plans in terms of hassle free execution of Urban Developmental plans, the new idea of smart cities seems very unreal in terms of implementation as the budgetary allocation is not sufficient.

The existing issues  that every urban set up in India is facing is going to be doubled of these smart city plans execute because of the obvious reason of non inclusiveness of such an idea.

(The writer is a Bangalore based development journalist and researcher on Urban Planing and Slum Development in India)

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LogoLink calls for making citizen participation substantive

LogoLink calls for making citizen participation substantive



LogoLink – Learning Network on Citizen Participation and Local Governance held the Partners’ Meeting on 22-25 September 2014 in New York City. In 2013, LogoLink undertook a review and analysis of policies and practices of citizen participation in local democratic governance as evolved in the past decade. This analysis suggested the need for a renewed discourse on citizen participation in different regions of the world in the changing context of democratic governance. Over the last year more than 500 organisations of civil society, academic institutions, local governments and their networks have been consulted in Asia, Africa and Latin America which resulted in the Global Charter on Right to Citizen Participation in Local Governance. A central message emerged from these consultations as the existing institutional spaces and mechanisms for citizen participation are inadequate to make participation meaningful and substantive. The decision making with regard to mobilisation and utilisation of public resources for common public good is still dominated by the elite groups in the society and polity across the world. The Global Charter, therefore, proposes a set of concrete actions for civil society, governments and donors. The Partners’ Meeting was an opportunity to deliberate on the emerging lessons on opportunities and challenges faced by civil society organisations across the world in promoting citizen participation in local governance institutions.The updates from various regions highlighted some common trends.

  • Societies and economies across the globe are experiencing profound economic and demographic dynamics, characterised by increasing inequalities and concentration of wealth and power with handful people and corporations; the developing world is experiencing an increased urbanisation, often in an unplanned and unsustainable manner coupled with a tremendous bulge of young people with different aspirations.
  • Despite decades of existence, the decentralisation of governance has remained uneven and incompletein many countries of the global south. Many observed that there is in fact a deeper tendency for recentralisationof governance and increased influence of corporate power over public policies.
  • Despite significant progress in the past century, democratic models under stress. There is increased concentration of power and control in the state and political parties, undermining the practice of participatory citizenship; there seems to be a deeper crisis of representation, as citizens are losing trust in the political system.
  • These trends of increasing centralisation, concentration of power, wealth and control and increasing inequalities are also being contested by citizens from the below as evidenced througheruptions of mass protests across developed and developing societies.
  • Emergence of digital technology is impacting the society in a profound way. Societies and people are getting connected with common interests and issues. There are opportunities to relate to the state directly, but often these engagements are individualised and isolated which undermine the values and strengths of collective engagement. On the other hand state is also exerting a new form of control over the citizens through technology.
  • The ‘deep-democracy’discourse is now equated with transparency and accountability. A major focus is on anti-corruption and making governments open. Many a times the global efforts (e.g. Open Government Partnership) are disconnected from the local civil society networks.

What do all these mean for citizen participation? The Partners’ Meeting explored this question vis-à-vis each major trend.

Uneven and incomplete decentralisation: In the last decade there have been proliferation of institutionalised spaces for citizen participation, however the question is how substantive are these spaces for substantive and meaningful changes, particularly that for the most marginalised and poor. As more often these spaces do not satisfy citizens’ needs and aspirations there is disillusion and disengagement from a large number of citizens. A new set of strategies must be in place to make these spaces inclusive and substantive and to transform the local governance institutions as schools for practicing participatory citizenship.

Stressed democratic models: The role of political parties and the nature of political system shape the nature of citizen participation and therefore cannot be ignored. In many contexts the local patronage networks determine the outcome of citizen participation. As the representative democratic institutions often fail to nurture citizen aspirations there have been a surge of mass protests by the citizens some of which also embrace violent expressions. However, such display of discontents also provides opportunities for harnessing greater assertion of rights and political expression by the citizens.

Digital technology: Technology holds great potential for re-engaging citizens and activating state response by linking locality and interest as basis for collective action. In recent times a lot of online civic engagement initiatives are enthusiastically being practiced; however there is also a hype associated with this technology at this moment. It must be acknowledged that apart from the uneven access to technology, the civic technology initiatives are also disconnected from one another. In addition, there is also limitation to enable ‘thick’ and collective engagement beyond ‘thin’ and individualized participation. However, with a thoughtful strategy, technology can create opportunities for linking these apparently unconnected initiatives for learning citizenship.

From democracy to transparency and accountability: In recent years there have been dramatic expansion and growth of social accountability practices. It offers useful tools for citizen engagement and institutionalises rights to information and participation to a great extent. However, many social accountability initiatives also promote a narrow focus on the use tools and not on politics which transforms power relationships. Its focus on monitoring of state performance to a large extent undermines the co-construction of development solutions by the state and citizens. Strategies must be in place to complement social accountability practices with other methods and practices of citizen participation.

The Partners’ Meeting calls for a renewed collective global action for promoting substantive citizen participation and identified three thematic areas, namely institutionalising spaces for citizen participation, urban governance and planning, and participatory development.

In the next phase of LogoLink, PRIA will assume the Global Coordination role with the help of an Executive Committee. LogoLink aspires to develop a new programme involving new actors and regions and invites like-minded civil society organisations, academic, local government officials, elected representatives and policy makers in this endeavour as partners and supporters.

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Participatory design is not trying to ask people to validate the ‘right’ answer!

Participatory design is not trying to ask people to validate the ‘right’ answer!


ELEMENTAL SA led by prominent Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena was presented with a Global Holcim Awards Finalist 2012 certificate for the Sustainable post-tsunami reconstruction master plan, of Constitución.

The master plan was developed after the 2010 earthquake and tsunami that struck Constitución, a city of 46,000 people located on the shore of the Pacific Ocean and 300km southwest of Chile’s capital, Santiago. 8.8 Earthquake Chile – Sustainable reconstruction master plan proposes a public-private strategy to respond with “geographical answers” to the “geographical threats” of the earthquake and tsunami risk.

Instead of considering a construction ban or a massive barrier along the risk zones, the project proposes to plant the flood-prone areas in order to break the waves. Located behind this first line of defense are facilities that have specific restrictions on the use and layout of ground floor areas. These two interventions are accompanied by an evacuation plan as the third protection element. The aim is a long-term preservation of the city at its historical position next to the estuary mouth – a strategic location for the city’s economy. The complimentary concept is to create public open spaces along the banks of the river that alleviate the lack of inner-city recreation areas as well as support the dissipation of rainwater runoff in order to avoid further flooding.

Half a good house is better than one small one

“Participatory design is not trying to ask people to validate the right answer – but starts by understanding what is the right question,” says Alejandro Aravena.

Supplemented by empirical evidence from the most recent tsunami, the architects relied on mathematical models and laboratory trials. Implementing their master plan proved very challenging both politically and socially, because it required the city to expropriate private land along the riverbank. Elemental’s successful approach was to rely on participatory design to define the citizens’ needs and engage them in the planning process. Today, four years after the earthquake, the individual projects from the master plan are being implemented.

In Constitución, the population has managed to apply the necessary innovation to ensure its protection against future flooding. By adopting a bottom-up approach, in a very constructive way a joint decision has been reached regarding what the city should look like in the future. This exemplary concept is not restricted to Constitución, but could also apply in many geographies around the world that have been destroyed by natural disasters.
elemental Elemental proposed combining the funds available for temporary emergency shelters and social housing to provide better-quality shelters with a higher initial cost that could then be dismantled and reused in an incremental social-housing scheme. The architects designed the social housing units as half of a good house instead of a complete, but small one: building-in the possibility for residents to double the floor area of the house to 80 square meters. Next to each built section of the row house is an open space of the same size into which residents can expand their house. Higher quality social housing eventually increases in value and provides families with capital growth where the collateral can be used to guarantee a loan for a small business, or pay for higher education for children.

Innovation in the built environment in this project did not come from new materials, new techniques or new systems: it came from having the courage to follow common sense ideas, to understand the needs of the people of Constitución, and by viewing the problem in terms of both the micro- and macro-environments.


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People Building Better Cities – Exhibition on Inclusive Development

People Building Better Cities – Exhibition on Inclusive Development


PRIA and PBBC (Global Studio) exhibition inaugurated on 4th October 2013 at the School of Planning and Architecture (SPA), Delhi with support of National Institute of Urban Affairs and Forum of Informal Urban Workers.

The exhibition descriptively engages the viewer towards various initiative, tools and practices of Global Studio and PRIA towards an inclusive urban development. The inauguration ceremony was followed by a walkthrough of all the panels and works done and was followed by an enriching panel discussion. The panel discussion was chaired and crisply moderated by Mr. Chetan Vaidya- Director, SPA .

Mr. Manoj Rai, Director-PRIA touched upon the need of a revolution of a thought process that doesn’t see the poor as the ‘other’. This thought process then can infiltrate into making programmes such as Rajiv Awas Yojana, National Livelihood Mission or even the addressal of migrants in urban areas, a success. He also touched upon a study that PRIA has initiated to identify and declare the ‘economic contribution of the urban poor in the city’s GDP’. The findings of the study would be revealed on the 15th at Habitat Centre, Delhi.

Ms. Shayamala Mani, Professor, NIUA who has done detailed work in waste management and inclusion of waste pickers, spoke about the attitude of lay citizens. More often than not we blame the policy and governance, but on ground one experiences that first block in ‘including’ the poor comes from the mental block of the middle class and the rich. She correctly said that by ‘including’ the poor, it is not a favour that the privileged society does, rather it is a right of the poor and the duty of the privileged sect to make an inclusive urban society.

Mr. Dharmendra Kumar, Secretary Janpahl, representing FIUPW elucidated the power of the community. Interestingly he highlighted how city like Delhi is urbanising and some of this urbanisation is inclusive such as Delhi Metro which has given a legitimate livelihood to rickshaw pullers, while some such as carbon hungry infrastructure and flyovers that exclude the poor and are not sustainable. He stressed on the fact how we need to relook our planning methods and practices such as building gated communities that over time are just increasing the gap between rich and poor. Today more than ever before, there is greater need for communicate on between the rich and poor to contribute together to sustainable inclusive urban development.

Dr. Neelima RIsbud, Head of Housing Department, SPA and Coordinator of National Resource Centre of MHUPA spoke about the nuanases of working in a urban poor settlement as a practioneer. She is also spoke about how our education system needs to familiarise the urban planner to be inclusive in its thought, speech and actions and not just in paper. The planner needs to recognise the potential and power of the urban poor. She also touched upon recent occurrings where in the judicial system has often not supported the poor and with pressure of the middle class and rich, victimised the poor. There is also a growing market pressure in urban poor settlements which is making the urban poor vulnerable. She also stressed on the need of capacity building of our urban local bodies towards aspects of inclusive development and community participation.

An overarching theme that all the panellist touched was upon bette governance and more process oriented than project oriented development projects that ensures better and successful community participation.

The exhibition is on till the 18th October at SPA.  See some glimpses here:



The exhibition is also traveling at other locations in the city:

  • October 7, Monday and 8, Tuesday Janpahal Shelter for Homeless with Janpahal and India FDI Watch
  • October 9, Wednesday and 10, Thursday Baljeet Nagar with HAQ
  • October 11, Friday and 12, Saturday Seemapuri with All India Kabadi Mazdoor Mahasangh
  • October 14, Monday and 15, Tuesday Rohini with All India Rickshaw Pullers Association
  • Oct 17, Thursday, and 18, Friday B-5 Vasant Kunj with Jhuggi Jhopri Ekta Manch

7th and 8th event was a success, catch some glimpses below:




The Seemapuri exhibition will feature an exhibition and sale of innovative, upcycled products from the local all-women cooperative Kabad Se Jugad, and a screening of the documentary ‘ Don’t Waste People’ by Julia Waterhouse

There will also be informal talks and discussions with
Dr. B.C. Sabata, Sr. Scientific Officer, Dept. of Environment
Mr. Ravi Agarwal, Artist and Environmental Activist

At Rohini, enjoy the Installation and demonstration of solar-powered and hybrid rickshaw prototypes ‘Adda’ discussion community issues.

Dont Miss it!!

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National Green Assembly on “ Waste Legislation and Waste Pickers”

National Green Assembly on “ Waste Legislation and Waste Pickers”


National Green Assembly on

“Waste Legislation and Waste Pickers”

New MSW draft rules continue to exclude Waste Pickers

 Date: 23rd October

Time: 10:00 am to 1:30 pm

Place: Constitution Club, Rafi Marg, New Delhi.

We  request you to participate in the dialogue and enrich it with your expert views on the matter.

There is urgent needto assess the measures that the government has taken over the past decade to improve waste management in the country. Millions of dollars have been spent in large scale, centralised technochratic solutions with little impact or improvement in levels of recycling. The Draft MSW Rules, 2013, do nothing to reform the situation. Instead, they seek to continue with the status quo and only increase the already thriving presence of waste to energy plants across the country. Is this the answer to our waste management woes? A consultation of concerned stakeholders seeks to address this question.

The Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India, has recently come out with the Draft Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2013 (MSW Rules). These rules would supersede the earlier MSW Rules, 2000 and have huge implications for the way waste is managed in cities across India. It is important to draw attention to the fact that these rules completely lack focus on the lives and livelihoods of millions of workers, both formal and informal, who have been involved in waste management. It also unclear whether they will be able to address the problems of pollution control.

Millions of workers are informally involved in collecting, sorting, recycling and selling waste material that someone else has thrown away by declaring it as garbage. Vital actors in the economy, these workers work hard to reduce carbon emission and save energy spent in handling the waste. They also contribute towards saving public money and provide widespread discernible and indiscernible benefit to our society, municipalities and the environment.

Ironically however, they face harsh working conditions, often  low social status, deplorable living conditions and no support from the government. Despite the fact that waste collectors recycle about 20 percent of the city’s waste saving the municipalities millions of rupees every year, they are not given any recognition in legislation, criminalized by the administration and ignored by society. They work without any direct payment, are not part of the public solid waste management systems, are socially invisible and seldom reported in official statistics.

The 3R (reduce, reuse and recycle) is the most accepted universal recommendation to save the environment. These are the only workers who help our society be on track to follow these recommendations.

Waste picking is responsive to the market for recyclables and is often a family enterprise. While it appears to be chaotic work, it is actually highly organized. In some cities, most waste pickers are migrants and rejected by the global economic processes. This puts them in a more vulnerable condition with no legal entitlements despite the fact that they are “The real, Invisible Environmentalists”.

On one hand, waste pickers or the informal ‘waste managers’ remain invisible to policy makers. On the other hand, the problem of waste management continues to grow. In its 2009-10, Annual Report the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) estimated that approximately 55 million tons of MSW are generated in urban areas of India annually. It is estimated that the amount of waste generated in India will increase at a rate of approximately 1 – 1.33% annually. The problem will thus sustain and grow if adequate measures are not taken.

India is one of the fastest growing economies with 6 to 9% GDP growth per year but despite these achievements and claims of rapid economic development, the disparity between rich and poor is widening, and this can be seen across the country– from large urban areas to small rural ones. According to ILO, despite playing such an important role for the society and environment, waste Pickers also fall under the 77% of the population who earn less than Rs. 20 every day because they are not authorized to collect the waste material from the source i.e.; homes, factorise, offices etc. Due to lack of recognition and authorization, waste pickers suffer from atrocities by Resident Welfare Associations, Policemen, Residents, Municipal Authority etc. With little scope of earning, they are entangled in the web of bribery.
In spite of their significant role in protecting our environment and saving resources for the economy, the government has never noticed them as an important economic sector but merely mentioned their name (Waste Picker) in legislations and reports.

In the new Draft MSW Rules, 2013 (The Gazette of India REGD.NO.D.L-33004/99  Page no. 26- Point no-9 (k) Management of Municipal Solid waste), Waste pickers have been mentioned as a possible option for collection of waste. Yet, there is no mechanism mentioned for their authorisation and thus hardly any waste picker has been authorized by government agencies. The roles, responsibility, and rights of the Waste Pickers have also not been mentioned in the draft Gazette. Yet the waste pickers have historically been demanding that they be given the right to collect, segregate.  sort, grade and sell off recyclable materials locally. This would lead to much greater environmental preservation than the centralised model being followed by municipalities currently.

This gazette has also promoted a forged and dangerous idea of waste to energy, in spite of knowing that in India it is not viable or sustainable to generate energy from Municipal Solid Waste. This is because of the properties of waste in India compared to developed countries where this is prevalent. A recent study by Ellis Buruss shows that WTE incinerators actually waste more energy than they produce In 2012, an operational energy plant was set up in Okhla, Delhi to produce electricity. However, even more than one and half years on, this plant has not able to produce one single unit of Electricity  but continues to release toxic pollutants. On the other aspects, it is proved that in an area where waste to energy plant would run there is a higher risk of disease likes Cancer and Impotence in Women.

Given the situation, it is of utmost importance that there should be dialogue between stakeholders to obtain different opinions on the Rules. It has been 13 years since the earlier Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000, were framed, and approved by the MoEF. Various changes have taken place since then in the structure and format of waste management, its governance, and economic and financial aspects. However, until date, there has been no systematic review of these changes and the measures that have been taken to manage urban solid waste. It is time to carry out such a review. In order to make the new Rules valuable for society, they must reflect this new learning instead of simply being a slightly amended version of the existing rules.

It is for this reason that several concerned people and organisations have decided to jointly host a dialogue of various stakeholders. The dialogue would help thresh out the issues so that the new Rules may lay the foundation for much more sustainable, inclusive, and holistic waste management system in our cities.

We therefore request you to participate in the dialogue and enrich it with your expert views on the matter


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2011 census figures suggest a more than projected growth (around 87 million) in urban population from the year 2001 (290 million) to 2011 (377 million). Urbanization and its multiple facets are reflected in the diverse yet unique ways in which our cities and towns evolve, expand and prosper on one hand and on the other become subjected to adversities like poverty, inequality, inaccessibility and discrimination. Where urbanisation in India has shown significant positive linkages with economic growth, with cities accounting for 62 to 63 percent of the country’s GDP in 2009–10[1], the plight of the ones who largely contribute towards this growth, i.e. the unorganized workforce and the urban poor is known reality.

A large proportion of our urban poor workforce, which comprise of domestic help, vendors and hawkers, construction workers, rag-pickers, rickshaw-pullers etc. dwell in informal settlements, slums, resettlement colonies etc. and are generally considered a blotch and burden on the ever developing and beautifying cities. There is a stark difference in the socio-economic and cultural lives of this segment (urban poor) of the population as compared to the middle and upper middle segments, owing to the unequal distribution of resources and services which range from housing and basic services to lack of income and livelihood security. A huge number of studies have been conducted on the socio-economic-demographic conditions of the urban poor and how to address issues of urban poverty, however there are very few studies that have tried to bring forth the significant contribution that the urban poor make in the lives of the city dwellers in general and the city economy in particular. It is important to understand whether the urban poor are actually ‘parasites’ to the city or their contribution to the city is equally important as that of their non-poor urban counterparts.

In pursuance of the same, PRIA with the support of Indicus Analytics, tried to look into this gap through a study conducted in 50 cities across India, to understand the contribution that the urban poor make to our cities. The objectives of the study were as follows:

 Identifying involvement level of the slum population in cities’ economic (including fiscal) and social activities.

  • To measure direct, indirect and induced contribution of the urban-poor population to cities’ economic scenario
  • To understand the shadow impact of non-existence of the urban-poor population in cities,  both quantitative and qualitative

On 15th October 2013, PRIA along with SPARC and FIUPW is organizing a National Consultation on the theme ‘Contribution of the Urban Poor to the City’s Economy’ at ‘Magnolia Hall’ where the findings of this study will be released. We hope to organize this consultation to not only share the crucial findings of the study but also dialogue and deliberate on how this aspect of the urban poor needs to be incorporated in policy discussions in the near future.

[1] Planning Commission, GoI, Report of the Steering Committee on Urbanization, 12th Five Year Plan (2012-2017)

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