I'm currently reading Shadow Cities by Robert Neuwirth, an investigative look at squatter cities in Rio, Istanbul, Mumbai, and Nairobi. These slums, ghettos, favelas grow at amazing rates -- cities within cities, created by individuals who build shacks on public land, usually without electricity, running water, sewage systems, or any other city amenities. On the other hand, also without taxes and landlords. Eventually, residents steal electricity and lay illegal water lines until, in some cases, agreements are reached about public services. In many cases, the governments will pull the houses down, and the squatters will rebuild...again and again, until the governments find they can't keep up with the squatters' determination and perseverance.
Neuwirth, who researched the book while living in the various places he describes, lived in one of the more progressive favelas in Rio, Rochina. About 1/3 of Rio's population live in one of the favelas, or squatter cities, in Rio. The worst squatter city was in Nairobi, Kenya.
Neuwirth gives a more positive view of some of these shadow cities than is commonly the case, and indeed, some of the shadow cities have become almost equal in quality and productivity to legal neighborhoods. While I think Neuwirth attitude is too positive/hopeful, with hundreds of thousands living in squatter villages, within or just outside legal cities, what is the answer? Sometimes, I even wonder "what is the question?" Or rather, that the answer may be to drastically change the way we view the situation and concentrate on what can be done about the population explosion.
At this time there are approximately a billion people world-wide living in squatter cities, that is one of every six people. Predictions are that the number will double by 2030. And as terrible as we may think the conditions of the people who live in these cities, many who live in there are grateful.
I was talking about the book to my friend Nina the other day, and she asked if the Cairo cemetery squatter city was included. I said I didn't think so, and checked when I got home. Not included in the book, the Cairene Cemetery or "necropolis turned metropolis" is another fascinating solution to the shortage in housing. This link (you have to scroll down a bit) shows the Cairo cemetery, which seem a much better situation that most other squatter cities.
Anyway...I am enjoying the book and thinking about some things differently. My thanks to Lotus for sharing this one.