Background and Objectives

People today are pouring into the cities of the developing world, swelling their numbers and size. Every year the new urban populations fall farther and farther behind in adequately meeting their housing needs. The growth of squatter settlements becomes a measure of the housing deficiency. If we look at the resources of these cities and their national governments, or at the housing and community development programmes of the United Nations and other international organisations, we see little hope that money from these sources can be found to provide conventional housing solutions.

Given this background, an initiative has been taken by the Ahmedabad Study Action Group (ASAG) along with Selavip International (Sericio Latino Americano Y Asiatico De Vivienda Popular), to organise a series of seminars on Non-Conventional and Alternative Approaches to Shelter the Urban Poor: Local and International Experiences in five metropolitan cities of India: Bombay, Calcutta, Delhi, Hyderabad and Ahmedabad in January 1981.

The seminars are being organised with the following objectives in mind:

  1. To expose concerned people to innovative ideas and non-conventional approaches being tried out in other parts of the developing world in finding solutions to the housing problems of the urban poor.
  2. To share ideas, information and experience of the external agencies in the context of local problems, approaches and solutions. This will help in reviewing local ongoing efforts in relation to others (national as well as international) and generate a climate for experimentation and adoption.
  3. To get various local agencies—government, semi-government, non-government—together to review efforts collectively and to explore avenues of cooperation in evolving new, non-conventional approaches and solutions.
  4. To use this opportunity to study, evaluate and document (to the extent possible) some of the relevant experiences (policies, programmes, schemes and experiments) tried out by the city in the past or in operation at present.
  5. To use the preparatory period:
    1. to generate a city-wide dialogue and create awareness about the housing problems of the poor.
    2. to bring into focus the limitations of conventional housing solutions.
    3. to establish the need for adopting low-cost, non-conventional approaches.
    4. to bring as many non-government agencies as possible together to share ideas and, if possible, to establish working relationships among them.
    5. to establish linkages and, it possible, working relationships between the government and non government agencies.

The Delhi Experience

The problems of shelter in a rapidly expanding urban environment have rarely been responded to adequately. People’s independent action has meant large areas of slum growing within the city fabric. Generally, this spontaneous activity had prompted city authorities towards ‘slum clearance’ as a ‘solution’. Delhi has experimented with the resettlement programme in the last two decades. In the mid-seventies this policy of resettlement had been very brisk in developing large areas under site and services schemes. Delhi’s resettlement programme, which was enforced by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) over a very short period of time, is perhaps the largest of its kind. This programme shifted official attention away from the traditional housing stress areas within the city, such as the only city of Delhi (Shahjahanabad), and the network of ‘urban villages’ which were trapped within the spread of post-independence housing colonies.

In order to present the Delhi experience at the Seminar, and keeping the earlier stated seminar objectives in mind, it was felt that a new look at the resettlement programme could form a good base for developing alternative approaches in the context of the housing demands of the poor in this city.

The preparatory period was used to generate a dialogue between several voluntary social work organisations who are working with squatter and resettlement colony people, the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and other concerned governmental agencies, academic and research institutions like the School of Planning and Architecture and the National Buildings Organisation, national and international funding organisations like the Housing and Urban Development Corporation (HUDCO) and UNICEF, and a team of independent professionals and interested citizens. The attempt was to create a bridge between the official understanding of the shelter problem of the poor and the perception of the poor themselves on their housing reality.

The voluntary social work organisations (Action India, A.V. Baliga Foundation, Abner Memorial School, Delhi, Catholic Archdiocese), who have been working with the poor in resettlement and squatter colonies over the last few years, provided the base for evolving case studies which cover a range of issues related to housing needs. They are presented as a direct expression of people’s own experience of shelter, both within the city in the resettlement colonies.

In addition to the case studies, a representative household survey with a stress on shelter issues is being carried out in four of the resettlement colonies. Papers are also being presented to highlight the policy and particulars being followed by the DDA, possible alternative shelter strategies, and a theoretical framework for looking at the urban shelter situation.

Case Study 1: The Weavers’ Habitat in Nand Nagri and Kabir Nagar

As part of the recent resettlement programme, a community of weavers, who for the past 15 to 20 years had squatted and developed a number of colonies in the centre of the old city, were moved to a new resettlement site, Nand Nagri. The plan was for Nand Nagri to be well-designed weavers colony, with provision of work sites, water supply and other services, along with house sites. However, the plan has been realised only partially. Ironically only a few colonies were resettled. The others have decayed considerably since then. The process of resettlement dislocated the community from their marketing contacts and affected them not only economically but also disrupted the social processes of the community.

The study would contrast conditions in the new and old habitat while presenting the people’s perceptions of the impact of the resettlement process. It would also attempt to present the multi-dimensional rope that external intervener (official agencies, social work organisations, political agents, etc.) have played in the community’s life. The study would, therefore, critically examine the nature of resettlement while stressing the need for active community participation in processes which fundamentally affect their quality of life.

Case study 2: Women’s Perspectives on Resettlement

Always seen as the dependants of men, women have been an invisible factor in urban planning. What men say about women, their needs, their role and their potential has formed the database for policy makers.

Constituting nearly half the population, women play a central role in matters relating to housing, community development, nutrition and education. At low income levels they are also important contributors to the the family economy. As such, developmental strategies, particularly those relating to shelter, ought to be extremely sensitive to women’s needs.

What do women have to say? What is the low-income urban women’s experience of the D.D.A. resettlement programme? What are its implications for her in terms of employment, functional living—(services such as water rations, toilets)—health, community relationships?

This study attempts an insight into the differential impact of policy on women; it indicates alternatives suggested by the women themselves. Through statements, photographs and interviews recorded over a period of three months, it seeks to present the women’s perception of official housing strategies in Jehangirpuri, a resettlement colony with a female population of over 50,000.

This study is juxtaposed with government policies, claims and statistics to provide a constructive analysis of the D.D.A. housing programme from the women’s perspective.

Case Study 3: People’s Housing Action in Jehangirpuri

At its inception, the D.D.A. slum rehabilitation programme offered every family to be resettled, a bank loan of up to Rs. 2000/- towards the construction of a new house. In Jehangirpuri, one of the largest of the D.D.A. Resettlement Colonies, a large majority of house holders availed themselves of this loan to build themselves minimal ‘pucca’ shelters. However, due to a serious shortfall in the repayment of loans, this scheme was discontinued.

The severe floods of 1978 destroyed a large number of houses in Jehangirpuri. In the absence of the Bank’s scheme, the Delhi Catholic Archdiocese (D.C.A.) started a housing programme as part of its wider involvement in comprehensive community development.

By involving local residents in the implementation of its housing programme, the D.C.A. is attempting to provide both financial assistance and the organised supply of building materials and skills, to those without ‘pucca’ shelter.

The D.C.A.’s housing programme, while showing remarkable success in comparison with the Bank's scheme, would still not qualify as being totally viable.

In comparing the Bank’s Housing Loan scheme with the community’s experience of the D.C.A.’s Building Programme, this study provides some insights into the need for tailoring support programmes to suit the particular needs of varying community structures.

Case Study 4: The I.T.O. Squatter Settlement: A Study of Repeated Squatting

The Sanjay-Amar Colony is an agglomeration of about seven hundred shanty dwellings which have mushroomed in the shadows of the capital’s institutional centre.

In the context of Delhi’s Resettlement Programme, these squatters present a paradox: a sizeable portion of their community consists of people who have been resettled—but who have chosen to abandon their resettlement sites in favour of a return to squatting.

This phenomenon is perhaps a reflection of the dichotomy that exists between a squatter community’s perception of its problems and official attempts at presenting ‘solutions’ to them.

The re-squatters are not unaware that they are illegally occupying D.D.A. land. As such they are fully conscious that they must live under constant threats, and be subject to continued insecurity.

Why do they choose this precarious existence? What are the necessities of their economic condition? What are the imperatives of their way of life? Why should a community, which has been offered alternative housing, persist in occupying a site which is unhygienic, illegal and already bulldozed once?

This study introduces the community and seeks to present their views regarding resettlement. It presents their suggestions towards making resettlement a less painful experience. It puts forward the community’s solutions to its own problems.

The Context Paper

The case studies explore the living situation and shelter aspirations of the poor in some typical locations in Delhi. To make these situations comprehensible, the context paper examines the issues of migration patterns, the modes of earning and living, the meaning of housing needs, and the demands for an improvement in the quality of life. It highlights the task of devising means for a humane existence for the poor.

The Strategy Paper

The strategy for the provision of shelter for the urban poor will be determined by such factors as realistic standards, the location and availability of land, the availability of resources, etc. considered within the overall framework of the housing policy.

The involvement of the community and voluntary organisations at appropriate levels with governmental housing agencies will be important for the effective implementation of shelter programmes.

The D.D.A. Practices Paper

Delhi has a unique experience in the country of the implementation of its development plan in the last two decades. Through an imaginative urban land policy the Development Authority has provided housing to more than three hundred thousand families in the form of developed sites and constructed dwellings. The paper will put forward the D.D.A.’s Policy framework for shelter and highlight the practices being followed.


In developing a new settlement for squatters in developing countries, three fundamental problems dominate:

The are the question of Land tenure and the related question of spatial organisation; the water-waste system to maintain basic environmental quality; and the problem of finance management.

Each of these have been independently articulated in various situations around the world. The present opportunities in attempting an integrated solution towards optimistic benefits and costs at levels acceptable to low-income families in developing nations. Therefore both, the efficiency of the solution and the particular context of the people for whom we are planning, become determinants in system identification, selection and design. We synthesise these determinants below.

Economic Matrix

The grant of Land tenure with the basic services provided is the premise on which the housing model can be resolved.

Two plot sizes have been recommended; one 38.75 sq. m. and the other 51.75 sq. m. These have been mixed to produce four community densities options (see sheet No. 2.).

Should the lands be given at the nominal rates, they would represent substantial equity for housing loans from conventional financial sources.

Considering the low income profile of the residents and thus the heavy financial risk involved, it becomes necessary:

  1. to locate new or untapped sources of finance;
  2. to optimise the use of available institutional funds;
  3. Component construction options as opposed to unitized systems.

To this end we recommend the following:

  1. Cess on the working capital of new Industry and commercial enterprises in the area to contribute to a revolving housing fund.
  2. Locate Banks into the community. Initially Mobile Banks could suffice. This will promote savings and tap any surplus capital.
  3. Life and Insurance schemes to a introduced to encourage savings. These could be linked to deposits.
  4. Moveable assets to be permitted as equity for small improvement loans.
  5. Sweat Equity: Many variations of this concept possible from supplying the labour component in own house to community projects and blocking earned capital in bank accounts.
  6. T.F.D.A. to float housing and development bonds.
    1. Loans and Subsdies, comprises of... (1) Insurance of loans – in this manner more institutional and private capital could be released for development, (2) Increase repayment period of loans, (3) Subsidise interest payments and (4) Subsidies capital payments – this should be contemplated only as last resort.
    2. Banking, comprises of... (1) Material Banks: commonly used building materials should be retailed by cooperatives who should be able to purchase material at source; and (2) Pay as you build. Initially the design permits a virtually ‘No Cost’ house constructed from cannibalized materials from the previous house, set upon the minimum site and service facility provided. The house can be progressively upgraded (see construction option chart sheet No. 4.).

By these means it should be possible to evolve several diverse types of financial arrangements tailor made to the economic profile of the community.

Managerial Matrix

While the managerial Matrix cannot be generalised, certain broad goals can, nevertheless be identified. These are:

  1. Early settlement families should be carefully selected to provide the correct motivating impetus to the project. They should already have standing employment, capable of consolidating their list to a reasonable extent, and not be dependent on a new identity.
  2. Concurrent to the selection of an economically stable community, the initial industrial development should also be carefully considered for their economic viability and high employment potential.
  3. The T.F.D.A. should concentrate on the housing activity intend of the housing product. The product of the activity should be determined at the community level and the individual level by the people themselves.

The feedback from the individual and Barangay level would be critical to developing a self-correcting, people-oriented management philosophy.

Energy water and waste matrix

The financial and technological load of the environmental arrangements have been evenly distributed at optimum levels and phases of development. Sophisticated self-contained systems have been kept out. The proposal is to relate the waste management system to the space available and the community hierarchy. The system to the space available and the community hierarchy. The system is also designed for expansion while ensuring self-sufficiency at every stage. Also the proposed system utilises those necessary elements of squatter settlements like pigs and chicken farming.

The House

To match the incremental nature of building options a low cost unit which draws upon the users labour for functioning, has been devised. Dry latrines – a common feature of rural and urban housing in developing countries are always associated with odour and fly problems. The wind-powered mechanical extractor made of recycled tin cans eliminates these problems. Disposal of night soil is no problem because the privy decomposes it into useful garden manure. The same unit can be modified to connect to a fully services water borne sewage system, as this system is made available.

The Barangay

The community facilities have been distributed over the whole area.

1st Stage: One common water point for every 10 houses (from Manila city supply). This will be retained through all stages.

  • No common toilets.
  • No sewerage.
  • Individual aerobic dry composting dry privy.
  • Open drainage for waste water.

2nd Stage: Water borne sewage, smallest digester. The battery of linear gas digesters has been selected because of ease of operation and the possibility of incremental expansion. The digester is coupled with a settling pond and a fish pond to recycle a water.

City supply to supplement water losses in the cycle. A small quantity of river water also used in the system. Methane produced in the system to be used for running pumps and other simple machinery on the site.

3rd Stage: Optimising Gas production by increasing digester size – the community then has an option to use the extra gas for domestic purpose or industry.

The Zone: The recycling farm (see Sheet No. 2 & 5) has been located one per zone. Considering the level of technology which is viable in developing countries it was felt that the Barangay was too small for a unit to support a recycling farm. And to match the general philosophy of decentralisation the farm was located at the next administrative level beyond the Barangay, which is the zone.

The New Town: Only uses extensions of the existing cities Sewage system for the commercial belt along C-4 and (as proposed in the brief for the industrial area. Extension of the existing city water network is used only for communal water points required in stage 1. For stage ii the city net work contributes a small quantity of makeup water to the zonal recycling farm.

Social/Cultural Matrix: While the proposed solutions are expected to be prototypical to the emerging needs of the developing countries, the particular context in each instance cannot be neglected. In this instance the ‘Filipino Plaza complex and the practice of living at the first floor level (the houses consolidating downwards) see Sheet No. 4 – emerge as major determinata of the proposal. The other determinants have been:

Individual Self Help

Maximising individual options in terms of construction. It is possible to have a no-cost house made of cannibalized building components from one’s previous residence to various levels of upgrading, depending upon one’s needs and ability.

Community Self Help

Hierarchy of plazas has been designed to promote a close and rich community life. In the event it is found that the concept of the house group plaza is not functioning for any group, this space can be sub-divided to give small front gardens to individual families.

Spatial Matrix

The generator of the spatial matrix has been to exploit the natural trends that determine land use in spontaneous communities. The industrial areas have been retained as advised in the brief. Commercial zones have been recommended along C.4 in continuation of the existing pattern evolving in this direction. Similarly peripheral areas adjacent to the commercial/industrial area north of C.4 may be industrialised to reinforce the existing pattern.

The major traffic junction on C.3 with the 3 lane new town road has been identified as the “Front Door” of the new town and thus the location of the city administration offices, major religious building and big market (serving river courses as well) are located at this focal point.

Low-density housing development has been recommended adjacent to existing Manila communities, since these areas will have a premium which could be exploited by allocating them to the economically better off families.

Fringe areas where existing city information not fully available-proposal shows empty areas which can only be detailed when more information is available.

To permit intensive use of the open grounds of the higher secondary schools and the football fields with them, they have been located next to the zone centres.

The Barangay animal farms (2nd. state) have been kept on the edge of the housing areas.

In defining zone boundaries the existing physical features such as rivers and arterial roads have been a major determinant. The transportation network has been designed to reinforce the natural development of arterial roads for both pedestrian and vehicular traffic, while presenting alternative routes which are exclusively pedestrian which cut across the whole site within a green belt.

Thus the network has an interface with all the communities at Barangay centres where the jeep stops have been located on the 3 lane and 2 lane arterial roads coming off the major vehicular connection (C3, C4, R 10) with the rest of Manila. Within the zones the major pedestrian and the minor vehicular routes define the Barangay boundaries.

Pedestrian traffic moves through a series of hierarchically organised plazas from the house group plazas to the nursery school group (Burok level) to the Barangay centre and onto the zone centres. Pedestrians also move through the housing plazas to the public gardens along the river banks. Several foot bridges have been proposed across the rivers to provide links between the zones and the surrounding area.

The house plot grouping ensures wind movement through each house by totally eliminating the back-to-back situation. Also multiple entry is possible for each house.

There must be some open space maintained in the plot. Considering the economic profile of the community and the high value of urban land this private open space should be the absolute minimum. The functions of this open space are – a) to ensure cross ventilation through the rooms, b) for drying laundry, c) for kitchen gardens to supplement food provisions.

The location of the stair case and toilet areas allows the unit to be divisible into two units (one on the ground floor and one on the first floor) sharing the service unit.


The seminar will be attended by:

  1. The representatives of groups involved in settlements and related activities in Latin America, Central America, South East Asia and other parts of the world.
  2. Observers from international agencies involved in financing, training, education and information sharing on various aspects of the problem.
  3. Resource persons and experts from other Indian cities, and.
  4. Policy planners, programme designers and administrators, representatives of voluntary institutions involved in planning, research and action in the settlement and development fields; person attached to concerned academic and research institutions, concerned professionals and interested individuals from different walks of life.

National Participants

  • Mr. Umapathy, Habitat Project, Hyderabad
  • Mr. Louis Menezes, Cities and Services and Slum Improvement, Madras
  • Mr. Bindheshwar Pathak, Sulabha Sauchalya Sansthan, Patna
  • Mr. Shiresh Patel, Slum Improvement Project, Bombay

Foreign Participating Agencies

Fundation Solvadorena De Desarrolo Vivienda Minima—El Salvador:
Fundaction is perhaps the only non-government agency in the world operating a World Bank financed Sites and Services and Squatter Upgrading Programme. What distinguishes its work is a programme based on the conviction that housing action could lead to social change.
Freedom to Build—Manila, Philippines:
Freedom to Build is presently serving about 6000 low income families in one of the Philippine government’s resettlement areas in Dasmarians near Manila. Freedom to Build facilitates people’s own housing initiatives by making available building materials, tools and skilled labour at reasonable prices. It has now started organising housing action groups in Philippines to present a united front in evolving appropriate policies on land, access to resources and other related matters.
Kompung Improvement Programme—Indonesia:
The Kompung Improvement Programme is the joint venture of the government of Indonesia and the World Bank to improve environmental conditions in Indonesia’s main cities like Jakarta, Bandung and Surabaya.
The organisational system attempts to involve the people at different stages of planning and execution.
Servivindra—Bogota, Columbia:
Servivinda, a voluntary group in Bogota, Columbia is providing conventional prefab houses to the needly poor. Its scale of operation, neat efficiency and some organisational innovations in financing and cost recovery are noteworthy.

Sponsors: Delhi Development Authority, School of Planning & Architecture, National Building Organisation, UNICEF United Nations Children’s Fund, Action India, Dr. A.V. Baliga Foundation, Abner Memorial School, Delhi Catholic Archdiocese, Indian Council of Social Science Research, Institute of Town Planners India, Servicio Latino Americano Y Asiatico De Vivienda Popular, Ahmedabad Study Action Group

Co-Sponsors: Town and Country Planning Organisation, Housing and Urban Development Corporation, Municipal Corporation of Delhi, Indian Institute of Public Administration, Central Public Works Department, National Institute of Urban Affairs, Department of Social Works – University of Delhi, India International Centre, Delhi Chapter, Institute of Town Planners, India, Indian Institute of Architects, Northern Chapter - Indian Institute of Architects, Department of Environment, Church’s Auxiliary for Social Action, Mobile Crèche for Working Mothers’ Children