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Mumbai's mangroves are key to urban resiliency

Mumbai has 149 kilometers of coastline — an enormous asset but also one of the city's greatest vulnerabilities. After the 2004 tsunami that caused widespread devastation across Southeast Asia, coastal cities began to reevaluate their resiliency in the face of another major storm. Areas that weathered the tsunami best were those with thriving mangroves, a natural buffer between the land and sea. Mangroves protect the "assault of the sea on land," according to the Soonabai Pirojsha Godrej Marine Ecology Centre, which supported the protection of Mumbai's mangroves. The Centre describes these vibrantly diverse ecosystems as "more dynamic than the sea itself." Read more or discuss.

Stopping violence against children starts in schools

In February 2010, 12-year-old Rouvanjit Rawla, a student at a prestigious school in Kolkata, committed suicide after being humiliated and caned by his principal. The Rawla incident set off a firestorm of controversy over widespread accounts of corporal punishment in India's schools — from the most elite institutions to those run by the government. The Ministry of Women and Child Development subsequently banned physical punishment of students. Despite the measures, reports of students continuing to receive harsh physical and verbal abuses from their superiors continue to plague India's school system. Read more or discuss.

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.

Implications of the new national measures on housing in Mumbai

Despite the Ministry of Housing revising the categories of urban poor (EWS) and low income (LIG) groups with annual incomes up to Rs 100,000 (USD 1800) and Rs 200,000 (USD 3600) per year respectively, the new estimates will still leave out 60% of Mumbai’s population from accessing the national government affordable housing programs. That is a hard measure to accept when the reality in Mumbai is that 2 in 3 people (or about 60%) live in substandard housing or lack security of tenure in current housing arrangements. Read more.

Self-construction: a bottom-up answer to low income housing

From such megacities as Delhi and Mumbai to smaller cities such as Jaipur, Ahmedabad, and Dehradun, self-construction is visible throughout India, a country where over 60 percent of the urban poor live in settlements where units have been self-constructed. Contrary to popular belief, these settlements are not all "slums" as seen near railway stations or large drains, but a range of neighborhoods — including urban villages, unauthorized and planned colonies that vary both in terms of their legal status (right to sell, build, mortgage) and access to urban infrastructure and services. In the absence of scalable private and government housing initiatives, these low-income neighborhoods are the largest source of affordable housing for the country's poor. Read and discuss.

Designing for livelihoods in government slum-rehabilitation projects: Sundernagari, Delhi

A key principle of the central government's "Slum Free India" policy is to redevelop slums in situ (upgrading their current situation rather than dislocating slum dwellers) and offering them basic tenure security. Still in its pilot phase, the policy, Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY), emphasizes a process for community engagement and has laid down detailed guidelines for the interaction process. Mahila Housing SEWA Trust (MHT) was one of four NGOs tasked by the local municipality in Delhi to work on the pilot to be sponsored by the Ministry of Housing. MHT was to engage the community and propose an alternative design for redevelopment in an eastern Delhi neighborhood of Sundernagari; mHS engaged on data analysis, community facilitations, and architectural and urban design for the site. The results have the potential to influence redevelopment in the capital city as well as other major urban centers such as Mumbai. Learn more.

Taking an interdisciplinary perspective: shelter for Mumbai's working homeless

Roughly one percent of the urban population in India is believed to be homeless, amounting to an estimated 3 million people sleeping under flyovers, in parks, and on pathways. Although the Supreme Court of India issued a directive in February 2010 for a fundamental right to shelter, the response of the state governments has been nothing short of embarrassing. To address this issue, micro Home Solutions (mHS) brought its interdisciplinary expertise in architecture, community engagement, and program design to homeless shelters in India — designing and building two prototypes of temporary shelters, each with a capacity of up to 80 people, at the embankment of the Yamuna River, opposite the Inter-State Bus Terminal (ISBT) in Delhi. Their aim: to influence local government models on the design and operations of homeless shelters. Learn more.