Rakhi Mehra's blog

Planned informality: the need for flexibility and foresight in urban refugee settlements

Take a flat land in the desert of Jordan near the Syrian border and place thousands of white tents and containers within the boundary. Then accommodate families to live in it — and within the timeframe of a month, if not overnight, what you have is a small city. Leaving behind the tragic reasons behind the forced exile of Syrian people to Jordan, the process above described is, in synthesis, the incredible process that UNHCR — with the help of Jordanian Government and other agencies — undertake to build the refugee camp of Za'atari. Read more.

Slum upgrading in the Philippines: Where there is political will, there is a way!

Cebu City is the second largest urban center in the Philippines and has its share of illegal settlements spread along the coasts and within the texture of the cities. Governmental interventions range from slum eviction to rehabilitations and relocation, with local Government agencies given the higher levels of decision-making powers. Last week, I had the chance to visit Lorega, one of the informal settlements in Cebu where a slum upgrading project had been recently initiated post a fire that destroyed most of the settlement. Read more.

Innovations in incremental housing finance take hold despite an adverse policy environment

"Housing for All" in India focusing on the poor will remain a key electoral mandate for successive government irrespective of party affiliations. The only expectation with the upcoming national elections in India later this year 2014 is for a change in policy perspective to truly facilitate housing for the poor. There are workable and scalable housing solutions abound and the policy makers need only look at field practices to design policy that is flexible and accommodates these innovations rather than stifling them. Read more.

Improving tenure rights through tools and partnerships — the network effect

It has been an interesting and intense week of strategic planning at the Global Land Tenure Network (GLTN) partner's forum at The Hague. The Network was set up in 2008 under the UN Habitat with the objective of improving land and tenure rights. Over the last five years it has invested in tool development and engaged partner agencies in the training and delivery of capacities at the international, regional and national level. Read more.

The risk of bundling the 65 million that live in 'slums' in India

Slums in the census are defined as "residential areas where dwellings are unfit for human habitation" because they are dilapidated, cramped, poorly ventilated, unclean, or "any combination of these factors which are detrimental to the safety and health". For the latest round, the census designated slums in three different ways - notified, recognized and identified (identified slums do not have legal status as a slum, but must consist of at least 60-70 tenements with at least 300 people). Read more.

Bridging the skill gap: India's urban workforce

Manmohan Singh, India's prime minister, speaking during India's 66th independence day, admitted that the government has not done enough on skill building for India's youth and announced the setting up of a national skill development agency (NSDA). Read more.

Take-aways from the building collapses in Savar and Thane

This year we have been witness to two deadly building collapses. Or at least two have been widely covered by the media. The first one reported was in Thane (Mumbai), with a toll of 74 lives of mostly low-income renter families. The second one happened in Savar, Bangladesh. Over 700 people lost their lives. Read more.

Partnerships key for equity in Transit Oriented Development

The term Private Public Partnerships (PPP) in India is a dirty one. While partnerships present an opportunity for stakeholder collaboration that generate value by pooling of complementary expertise and resources, the practice in India has meant subcontracting of tasks and strategy by public sector to the private sector with little accountability or responsibilities on outcomes. The only driver of the partnership has been project finance and profits. This has been especially true in housing or slum redevelopment schemes from Dharavi in Mumbai to Katputali colony in Delhi driven by PPPs between city governments and large private developers. Maximizing the value of land while delivering maximum number of low-income housing are contradictory and misleading national policy objectives with fatal social outcomes. Read more.

Financial inclusion in India's financial capital, Mumbai

The Indian nation is determined to meet its goal on financial inclusion. How financially inclusive is the city of Mumbai? As the financial capital of the country, Mumbai, with a population of 18.8 million, has more than 1,600 bank branches. But when it comes to the poor and informal sector workforce, let's see how it fares. Read more.

Technical assistance challenges in self-construction

The self-construction opportunity: A bottom-up answer to low-income housing — Part II

This is a two-part blog on the self-construction housing opportunity in India's informal settlements. Part II highlights innovations needed to address issues of safety and quality in self-constructed housing, guidelines circulated by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), and what we can do to make innovations and information more accessible to communities. Part I highlighted the urgency to acknowledge and facilitate the self-construction market and shared experiences from the mHS pilot. Read more.