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IMPLICATIONS OF THE INFORMAL SETTLEMENT IN DEVELOPING CITIES
1.1 BACKGROUNDS OF STUDY
Deteriorating urban environmental conditions and their life-long implications on quality of life have become significant aspects of debates and discussions. Towns and cities in developing countries like Nigeria are growing rapidly (World Bank, 2005). In the urban areas, the pace and scale of the growth have outstripped the capacity to maintain acceptable standards of public health, physical infrastructural development, environmental safety and sustainable economic growth, therefore reducing the housing quality and quality of life in general. Informal settlement (also referred to as a shanty town or squatter settlement) has been defined in various ways depending on the planning and legal framework of a country where it exists. For the purposes of this discussion, informal settlements are defined as residential buildings built on“planned” and “unplanned” areas which do not have formal planning approval. They are characterized mostly by the low quality houses and the lack of, or inadequate infrastructure and social services. Informal Settlement (IS) has been perceived both as a problem and solution to housing needs in speedily growing cities of many developing countries. (Srivinas 2005, Todaro 1994).In academic and government documents, “informal settlements” is the label typically applied to these areas. That those communities are not incompliance with building norms and property and urban planning regulations is often given as the main reason for qualifying them a“informal”. Also defined as “irregular”, they can easily be called “illegal”, and their inhabitants subsequently criminalized, displaced, and persecuted. From India to South Africa to Ecuador, legal and administrative changes have been made in recent years to give special/ad hoc inspection and demolition powers to local, provincial, and national governments to deal with these neighborhoods and, in theory, to prevent them from growing (in many cases, environmental laws and regulations or urban projects are used as excuses for destroying these settlements). As was recently recognized , the UN’s Millennium Development Goal 7-Target 11 commitment to reducing the population living in slums by 2020 was tragically translated in several countries as the pressure to destroy people´s self-built housing and even to incarcerate the leaders of social movements (for a critical analysis of the “cities without slums” initiative and why language matters, see Gilbert, 2007). In Zimbabwe alone, the UN reports that as many as 700,000 people were affected by terrifying slum “clearance” operations in 2005, which took the revealing name of “ Remove the filth”.Following a tradition most probably started before the mid-19th century in some English cities undergoing industrialization processes and migration from the countryside, our contemporary media still often depict the inhabitants of informal settlements as the troublemakers, the thieves, the lazy. It is hard to find positive stories about their daily struggles for better life conditions, rights, and dignity.It is clear that we urgently need a better approach to naming and framing such areas broadly called “informal settlements”—one that is respectful and sensitive to the people who live there and that could better promote the transformations that our cities and our societies need.Likewise, the classification of all such areas as “informal settlements” does not indicate the relevance of the places in their cities that they occupy or the spatial segregation they usually suffer from; the lack of access to affordable and public transportation, places of employment, schools, hospitals, and other basic facilities; the lack or limited access to financial resources such as credits, subsidies, etc.; or the lack of technical assistance and/or adequate materials to consolidate housing and neighborhoods buildings and infrastructure, just to mention a few.The difficulties of defining a phenomenon so variedand dynamic as “informal settlements” are often invoked to justify the continuing use of the catchall term and the predominant focus on what they do not have (Connolly, 2007). But academics in several regions have been discussing the formal/informal false dichotomy as a kind of “discursive differentiation” that shapes and enacts knowledge and power relations on the territories. Many of them argue that binary classifications are clearly insufficient to reflect the complexity of settlement processes that we face in reality; such classifications simultaneously hide authorities’ responsibilities in producing informality (Roy, 2009; Yiftachel, 2009; Wigle, 2013).Instead of “informal settlements”, we prefer to understand and describe them as practices and social struggles that not only build houses and neighborhoods strictly on a physical level; at the same time, and perhaps even more importantly, they also build active and responsible citizenships against marginalization and social and urban segregation, advancing direct democratic exercise and improving individual and community livelihoods, participants’ self-esteem, and social coexistence (Ortiz and Zárate, 2004). In fewer words: the city produced by the people.
1.2Statement Of Problem
Informal housing development is illegal and consisted of unauthorized colonies and squatter settlements which have generated much criticism globally. There appears to be an underlying stigma attached to informal housing, and the community perception of the quality of such housing does not seem very pleasing (Srinivas, 2003 and Sietchiping, 2000).The sprawling of poorly controlled settlement developments has resulted in many environmental and health related problems. Uncontrolled settlement development is causing physical disorder, uneconomical land utilization, and excessive encroachment of settlements into good agricultural land, environmental degradation and pollution risks (COLE 1995). Also, as explained below, it has become very difficult for the governmentto send social and economic infrastructure/services to these areas due to the lack of space and accessibility.Addressing the problems of informal settlements requires better understanding of the driving forces contributing to their expansion and growth. Countries in the region experiencing informal settlement growth are grappling with the same set of systemic problems related to lack of access to affordable housing, inappropriate spatial planning policies and an incomplete system of land management as well as growing urban poverty, though in very different national contexts. A common element of this process in transition countries is the combined effect of economic transformation and civil strife, which has provoked a sudden acceleration of urban migration and a proliferation of informal settlements in more than 12 countries. Central and local governments were largely unprepared to face the pressures on land, housing and services. Years after these conflicts, later illegal or informal construction covers large tracts of peri-urban land, and is home of both socially vulnerable groups and relatively well-off migrants to the cities.
Abuja with population of, 778,567 (NPC, 2006) is a planned modern city with magnificent buildings, and good road network, have undergone a growth rate of about 30 percent each year as evidence shows from recent reports. Large-scale migration from rural areas and other cities in Nigeria, particular, is amongst major reasons for population increase. Less than 30 years of being the capital city of Nigeria, there are informal settlements in the midst of magnificent modern buildings. “Squatter settlements” and “shantytowns” are, spreading rapidly in and outside the city limits (satellite towns) like Karu, Durumi, Nyanya, and Maraba amongst others. Many residents in these suburbs lack amongst others drainage, good physical and environmental conditions, sanitation, sewerage, and safe drinking water; their drinking water comes from wells and hand-pumped water boreholes. United Nations Human Settlements Program (UN-Habitat, 2003) reports, that squatters and urban poverty is not only a manifestation of population explosion, demographic change, and globalization; but also, the result of failed policies, poor governance, corruption, inappropriate regulation, dysfunctional land markets, deficient financial systems and a fundamental lack of political will. The population of residents in squatters and shantytowns in Abuja is rising daily. According to a report by the Global Urban Observatory (2003), urban poverty in developing Nations is usually concentrated in squatters and other informal settlements; and, these cities lack decent housing, inadequate facilities like water supply, sanitation, sewerage, drainage, community centers, and health care. This condition is similar to Abuja and many other cities in developing Nations. However, most of the residents of these informal settlements play important roles in the economy of the Abuja. They remain neglected. Regular fires, diseases, environmental degradation, crime, and evictions at short notice are constant experience of the large fraction of population in these settlements. This paper will in subsequent section suggest ways to bring better quality of life in these areas.
MAP OF ABUJA
CAUSES OF INFORMAL SETTLEMENTS
The critical factors causing the formation of informal settlements are notably related to several major interrelated changes:
(ii) rapid urbanization and influx of people into urban areas
(iii) war, natural disasters and earthquakes leading to massive movement of people to places of opportunity and safety
(iv)Ineffective Housing Policies
(v) inefficient public administration, inappropriate planning and inadequate land administration tools. Manifestations of informality are attributed to the lack of effective planning, effective land management system and zoning regulations for
(vi) The inability of the economy to cater for the housing needs of the low income and no income groups who form the majority.
(vii)The deficit in housing supply as a result of a combination of factors including high population and urbanization growth rates, couples with high incidents of poverty amongst the population
(viii)Failures to give the housing sector its due priority in general economic development. The sector competes with all others in accessing the limited resources of finance, management, labor, materials, and land.
According to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), poverty and social ostracism are the primary causes of informal settlements in most nations. Governments around the world grapple with fiscal deficits and therefore promote and subsidize industrial sectors that can revitalize the economy. In addition, governments have implemented policies to provide housing for the urban poor but their efforts have proved futile. According to Housing the Urban Poor,several governments have pursued anti-urbanization policies. They have evicted people from informal settlements, razed the housing, and sent the dwellers back to the countryside. These measures fail to stem the tide of urban migration. Rapid urbanization and influx of people into urban areas is another major cause of informal settlements.