Most Livable Slum


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Vancouver was rated as the most livable city in 2010. Is there any precedent of municipalities rating the livability of their slums?

Could a rating of the livability of slums leverage improved quality of services? For instance, in Bangladesh (where most slums are located on private land) poor services in slums are maintained because:

1. The Residents: are not so much illegal settlers as they are tenants renting accommodation. While they want improved services, they also know that better accommodation commands higher rents.
2. The Land Owner: does not invest in upgrading (as infrastructure is difficult to maintain) neither does he want to sell the land (as he will get far less than the land is actually worth) neither can he evict the residents (as middle-men are often housed on this land).
3. The Municipality: does not want to recognize these slums (because they do not have planning approval) neither does it want these residents evicted (as they constitute a sizeable vote bank).

If a municipality were to rank the livability of slums:
1. The Municipality: would gain popularity by recognizing the existence of these communities.
2. The Land Owners: would gain recognition for providing better living conditions for residents.
3. The Residents: would incur health & welfare benefits from the better living conditions.

One would reasonably expect that better performing slums would command higher income for the land owner while residents would probably also benefit from reduced health and welfare expenditures.

If this rating were undertaken by the slum residents then they would also benefit from;
• exposure to the good practices within other slums,
• building solidarity with the residents of other slums when touring with the evaluation team.
• strengthened accountability of land owners to the rating of the residents.

The city sanitation rating in India and the Sant Gadge Baba program in Maharashtra offer some precedent! Do you think that it is worth giving the rating of the livability of slums a trial?


Mark Ellery

Water and Sanitation Specialist

Join the Conversation

Stuart Cameron
September 25, 2010

First you need to explain why the municipality, which as you say refuses to recognise these slums, would start doing so, or how it can be made to. If it started doing this in a serious way, it would also have to build more schools and health care centres. It's doubtful whether slum dwellers are even included in national surveys and censuses at the moment.

If you could get municipalities and central government to start recognising slums, and along with that, the rights of the people who live in them, then a large part of the problem would already be solved - but that's precisely the difficult part.

Organisations like the Centre for Urban Studies already carry out slum surveys, and publish reports . Has this had any effect on the services that landlords and municipalities provide? I doubt it. They could publish their full results (with a simplified set of ratings, perhaps) but would anyone read it?

Employing slum residents to do the survey is a nice idea, but I wouldn't wait for the municipality to organize it.

October 17, 2010

The reason why municipalities don't formally recognize slums is exactly for this reason ... that formal recognition just implies a greater obligation to ensure basic services.

A slum livability rating could raise the issue of the quality of services in slums but with 2 key differences:
1. This is an informal recognition of slums based on the quality of services delivered rather than a formal recognition of slums by the numicipality (as a route to then improving quality of services).
2. It places a positive spin on this overtly negative topic. A 'most livable slum' raising a sense of pride rather than one of despair.

The objective of this is an informal recognition of slums based on their own effort to improve the quality of services that they provide, in preference to the formal recognition of slums placing obligations on the municipality to provide services. Our untested hypothesis is that the former may lead to the later!

antony cook
February 07, 2011

hi mark hop you are well, if you get this could you send your email thanks antony cook busselton

Rashed Samad
July 01, 2013

I do agree with you but in my opinion WB/LCG can easily prepare a livability index of municipalities. The proposed index will prioritize service delivery efficiency based on category of the municipalities, the slum condition could be one the parameters. The donors can easily allocate funds on the basis of it.