Improving Slums

We had a debate in our geography class last year about which issues were most important to resolve when upgrading slums. We were each assigned a particular aspect of the worst-case situation to argue as a priority to resolve, and asked to come up with some means to solve it. That’s why this might come off as very poorly structured (even by my standards). I’m also mentioning that explanation as I’m not sure where my notes on healthcare measures went, and this is likely to be updated once I’ve found (or remade) them.

Physical Infrastructure

  • 84% of houses have no water supply. Illegal water sellers are expensive, and many people take water from rivers.
  • Roads are impermeable (leading to issues with erosion, flooding downstream and others)
  • Illegal electricity (in many slums) can lead to electrical fires
  • 90% of people in slums (worldwide) die of disease
  • Water can be purified using plastic bottles
  • Kenya has projects for community based solar power to help improve the local electrical supply
  • The Green Exchange program (where waste is exchanged for cash or food parcels. The waste is used for various purposes depending on location. In Curitiba, Brazil, it is reused for other purposes. The exact waste can vary with location, too. It helps prevent malnutrition and any issues that could arise from a dirty environment.)

Social Infrastructure (mostly referring to Rio de Janeiro)

  • 880 million people live in slums globally.
  • Complexo de Alemão is trying to reduce crime rates by building 2 primary schools, 2 creches, a technical college and a library
  • Complexo has 70,000 people with insufficient education and healthcare
  • A cable car was built to transport people from the slums to Rio’ center. This has helped unemployment rates. The stations are cheap, and have lead to greater educational, job, and healthcare options.
  • Cidade de Deus healthcare clinic was set up in the slums
  • Olympic values were taught to children; 168 schools, 100,000 children
  • Favela painting is a practice to occupy people’s time productively. The favelas are made to look better by occupying local people to paint buildings in bright colours and patterns. The normal buildings are often bare brick and mud. Very drab environments are bad for people’s emotional health, so painting the favelas in bright shades is improving people’s wellbeing.
  • There has been an 80% drop from 30,000 gun crimes per year once gangs were removed.


  • 40% live in shanty towns
  • People used to just be used to worse areas
  • Now people are provided with material
  • There are housing projects to remove the shanty areas and replace them with proper housing
  • 1/3 of people in poor cities live in self-built houses
  • The Bairro project, in Rociña, Rio de Janeiro, aims to increase the average size of slum homes to 20m^2 and to widen the main streets.
  • Barra de Tijica, Brazil, is a new town located through a mountain from Rio, providing new housing in 10-30 storey blocks, and is now home to 180,000 people.
  • Almost all the houses in Rociña are made out of concrete and brick, contributing to 100s of businesses
  • NGOs are working to improve the situation
  • Oxfam are working to improve the lives of 100 million people living in slums worldwide
  • Some slums still have no provision of basic services.


  • Oxfam provides water tanks for affordable use in many slums
  • Most people use informal water supplies
  • in Hima, Peru, there was a census including types of businesses, which lead to improvements in encouraging foreign businesses to buy goods from slum workers.
  • Does this actually provide them with enough money to escape poverty?
  • People in slums can enter themselves in the yellow pages, which has been quite successful in Brazil and Peru.
  • However, businesses in slums are unregulated by the police, and are unprotected by the police, in many areas


  • 4.3 million cases of cholera worldwide
  • Most people produce about 300g of waste a day
  • 2.4 million people in Nairobi are living in slums
  • Composite farms gather waste in biodegradable bags, which, after 6-8 weeks, can be used as manure, leading to better soil fertility, better farming, and more food and income
  • Bioplants can be made in Kibera. Many people use the same latrine. The methane produced from this can be harvested and then resold as cooking gas, which helps kill off germs in water and food
  • Umende has 57 bio centers, and has collected 60,000 kg of waste
  • Nepal has 2.8 million people living in slums. In Kathmandu. 10,000 of the 31,000 slum dwellers are waste collectors. The informal sector work is often exploited.
  • There is an Umbrella Group which workers can register with t monitor them and give vocational training
  • The Green Exchange program in Nepal has led to 4,000 waste worker jobs, with 50% of the beneficiaries being women.

PRC General Pollution Issues

A real time global air quality index visual map can be found here.

Soil contamination

The growth of the PRC since the 1980s has lead to major soil pollution. The State Environmental Protection Administration believes it to be a threat to environmental quality, food safety and sustainable agriculture. 100,000km^2 of the PRC’s cultivated land has been polluted, with contaminated water irrigating a further 21,670^2 and 1,300km^2 have been destroyed or covered in solid waste. This accounts for 1/10 of the PRC’s cultivatable land. 6 million tonnes of grain are contaminated annually, costing about 29 billion yuan to the Chinese economy, roughly US$2.57 billion.


The PRC’s general lack of real environmental awareness (which proves the level of thought into one president elect’s allegations of the PRC “inventing global warming”) has lead to a lack of decent recycling systems. In 2012, the PRC generated 300 million tonnes of waste material.

Industrial pollution

In 1997, the World Bank issued a report targetting the PRC stating that “hundreds of thousands of premature deaths and incidents of serious respiratory illness have been caused by exposure to industrial air pollution. Seriously contaminated by industrial discharges, many of China’s waterways are largely unfit for direct human use.”

The New York times stated in a 2007 article that “Environmental degradation is now so severe, with such stark domestic and international repercussions, that pollution poses not only a major long-term burden on the Chinese public but also an acute political challenge to the ruling Communist Party.”

  • Air pollution has made cancer the PRC’s leading cause of death
  • Ambient pollution kills hundred of thousands of citizens annually.
  • 500 million Chinese citizens have no safe, clean drinking water.
  • only 1% of the 560 million city dwellers breath air considered safe within the European Union
  • Lead poisoning from pollution kills many Chinese children
  • Large sections of the ocean have no marine life because of massive algal blooms- eutrophication
  • Pollution from China has spread internationally, causing acid rain fall in Seoul and Tokyo, and even in Los Angeles.
  • The Chinese Academy of Environmental Planning estimated in 2003 that 300,000 people die each year from ambient air pollution.
  • Environmental experts estimated in 2005 that by 2010 380,000 people would die of air pollution in the PRC annually, and that in 2020 550,000 would.
  • “outdoor air pollution was already causing 350,000 to 400,000 premature deaths a year. Indoor pollution contributed to the deaths of an additional 300,000 people, while 60,000 died from diarrhoea, bladder and stomach cancer and other diseases that can be caused by water-borne pollution.”, “China’s environmental agency insisted that the health statistics be removed from the published version of the report, citing the possible impact on ‘social stability'”- World Bank, 2007
  • Up to 760,000 people died prematurely in the PRC in 2007 due to air and water pollution. Around 360,000 to 400,000 people died of air pollution within PRC cities. 300,000 died because of poor indoor air quality, and 60,000 from poor water quality.

Electric Waste

Electronic Waste means discarded electronic devices which have not been recycled or re-purposed.

In 2011, the PRC produced 2.3 million tons of electronic waste. Additionally, a lot of electronic waste is imported from abroad.

Water supply

Due to general water shortages and high water pollution, there are often issues in the PRC in acquiring healthy drinking water. A quickly growing population, as well as often lax environmental laws regarding buildings have only increased demand for clean water.

Air Pollution

Coal combustion produces Particulate Matter known as PM. Beijing suffers from PM2.5- Particulate Matter less than 2.5 micrometers across. Such fine matter can easily lead to breathing problems such as bronchitis and asthma, and even lung cancer at extremely low ages (the typical age to contract cancer is above about 75 through most of the world, with this being raised to 80 with a healthy lifestyle, but in the PRC cases have been recorded of even 8 year olds having lung cancer).

Lung cancer is about 3x as common in Chinese cities as opposed to the countryside, despite similar exposure to other carcinogens such as tobacco smoke.

Despite now having means to measure much of the air pollution, measurements in 2013 showed that the  pollution was beyond the scope of what could be measured in the present particulate sizes.

Impacts of Pollution Generally

  • In 2005, pollution cost 3.05% of the PRC economy
  • Depending on the economic model (Eastern or Western), in 2003, according to the World Bank, 2.68% or 5.78% of GDP was spent on water or air pollution
  • A review of this in 2009 said that this might be as high as 10%
  • A 2012 study said that pollution had little effect on the actual growth of the PRC economy; even if they were going to continue using polluting industries and inefficient energy sources. Eventually, the effects of pollution would start to off set the gains from them into the economy.
  • In 2015, Berkeley Earth estimated that 1.6 million people die annually in the PRC from strokes or heart or lung issues caused by pollution.


The PRC is one of very few countries actively increasing its forest coverage, which is working to reduce its environmental pollution. Due to Mao’s policies, much of the forest of the PRC was removed in the past, leading to dust storms frequently entering the city in line with the air currents from elsewhere. This started to cause pollution across urban areas. Replenishing forest areas should help to reduce this impact, although it will probably take many years to resolve the situation caused by deforestation entirely.

Additionally, the air pollution and water pollution within the PRC are also decreasing, according to government account. Although the PRC is clearly very polluted, the government claims that they are trying to reduce the situation, and there is reasonable evidence that they are taking some good measures on this line, but not very far into actively reducing air pollution, where it is really most needed.


On 1st June 2008, the PRC banned all shops from distributing free plastic bags to customers. Stores have to clearly mark the price of plastic shopping bags and are banned from adding that price onto products.  The production of ultra-thin plastic bags, less than 0.025 mm across are also banned. However, the ban does not effect  take-away food businesses or paper bags. The year after the ban was introduced, the International Food Packaging Association found that 10% fewer plastic bags had entered the rubbish system.

Legislation has been introduced preventing the introduction of electronic waste, but it has been criticised as vulnerable to fraud.

Air Pollution:

The PRC government recently started to include ozone and PM2.5 in their air quality indexes, which are the two most harmful forms of air pollution in the country. Official data shows air pollution decreasing, but with the PRC’s record of requests to not publish figures on their pollution rates, it is reasonable to assume that the published data was heavily manipulated.

After record high pollution levels in 2012, the government made an action plan to reduce pollution levels in September 2013. The plan was to reduce air pollution 10% between 2012 and 2017, which from the frequency of the alerts delivered in the last few years, has not been successful. The plan was published on the government website.

On 20th August 2015, to create a “Parade Blue sky” for the celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII, the government shut down industries for a day in Beijing, and heavily regulated car exhaust fumes. PM2.5 concentration was briefly 35mg/m^3 lower than the national average in the city, down to 19.5mg/m^3, the lowest in the city’s recorded history.

The government is aiming to reduce its fossil fuel usage by increasing the PRC’s capacity for renewable energy sources, or other less polluting energy sources, such as nuclear power, hydroelectric power and compressed natural gas.

The PRC government set up a system of air quality alerts. These alerts are based on air quality indexes. The alerts are given through the large cities of the PRC.

  • A Blue warning indicates pollution levels of AQI 201-300 (Heavy Pollution) within the next 24 hours
  • A yellow warning indicates an AQI of 201-300 for three days or AQI between 301-500 (Hazardous) within the next 24 hours.
  • An orange warning indicates that pollution levels will be above 201 for the next three days, going between “Heavy Pollution” and “Hazardous”
  • A red warning indicates an AQI above 201 for four consecutive days, or above AQI of 301 for two days, or an average of over 500 over the course of one day.

BRV Debris Flows 1999

In December 1999 Vargas province in  the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela was by many debris flows, made of sand, gravel, boulders and trees, with a consistency similar to concrete.

Boulders up  5m diameter were transported down to the coast. 2 million^3 of debris appeared in coastal alluvial fans, which extended of the coast by up  250m into what previously the sea.


Between the 8th to the 19th of December 1999, a cold front across the BRV deposited 914mm of rain on mountainous coastal regions. In that area, the Cordillera de la Costa runs alongside the coastline. The highest is just 10km away  from shoreline. The seaward slopes thus very steep. Runoff of water is very rapid and the steams high energy because of this.

The mountains themselves heavily weathered. They covered in clay, which very weathered away. The clay feeds of sedimentation downstream.

Widespread deforestation has reduced numbers of trees hugely. Roots are less able to fulfil purposes; therefore interception is reduced, and an even greater addition of slope instability.

Because the mountains drop suddenly, there is not much free available for settlement, and alluvial have become popular for settlement. A 6.3% population increase between 1990 and 2001 gas concentrated urban development closely. These coastal developments hit hardest by debris . The fans themselves are caused by continuous flooding events, so a disaster  bound to at some point.


Estimates of death toll range  15,000 to 30,000 deaths. 214,000 people effected. 44,000 people refugees.

20,000 homes destroyed with a further 40,000 damaged. Many single storey homes entirely buried. Towns in Carmen de Uria were even swept away.

Hazard mitigation

The people entirely unaware of the risk and thus there was no preparation in case such an event occurred. Flows can be somewhat predicted based on accumulation of sediment in mountain waters, as a debris cannot without sediment present.

Removal of slums on slopes should have been a priority. The president announced shortly afterwards that victims be re-settled away from the coast, but this was questionable as many  people  chose to live on the coast in order to avoid  the struggles of life in the interior of the country. Afterwards, 100,000 people whose homes had n destroyed were relocated to neighbouring  regions.

Many plains will not be suitable for human settlement in the future unless check dams can be built along rivers in  area. Flood channels have been constructed on the alluvial fans. Monitoring and early warning of exceptional rainfall runoff events had suggested, as have land controls in mountain catchment areas, and alignment of towns to match the path debris flows.

Mexico City- Air Quality

Mexico City is located in a valley which traps pollutants within the local environment. This has lead to the city having major air pollution issues. In 1992, the UN described the air as the most polluted on the planet. In 1998, this earned it the reputation of the most dangerous city for children.

The government has thus been trying to improve their image.

Factors contributing to the low air quality

  • Industrial growth
  • Population boom (3 million in 1950 to 20 million now)
  • Proliferation of vehicles. 3.5 million vehicles in the city, 30% more than 20 years old.
  • Mexico City is about 2,240 m above sea level; there are lower oxygen levels at this altitude, so fuels will often perform incomplete combustion, releasing more dangerous chemicals such as Carbon Monoxide instead of Carbon Dioxide
  • Intense sunlight can turn chemicals into greater intensities of smog.

Solving the problem

In the 1990’s the government introduced air quality campaigns that included a rotating one-weekday ban on private car use. On days of high pollution there are more weekday bands and some bands on heavy industry. Car owners have to have their vehicles certified every 6 months.

Researchers on the air pollution issue have trained local people to have a greater awareness for the importance of air quality. They also trained people on better consumption and purchasing practices.

A support group was also set up to aid those affected by air pollution and those at higher risk of effect- the very young, the sick, and very old.

Tangible benefits

Due to the health impacts of various chemicals in the air pollution, many people were dying much younger than they would otherwise. More than 20 researchers from various research groups put together information on the benefits removing the pollution would have on the city. They estimated that removing one microgram per cubic metre of a chemical called PM10 would be worth about US$100 million annually. Reducing PM10 and Ozone by 10% would save US$760 million annually.

That translates to 33,287 fewer ER trips for respiratory issues and 266 fewer child deaths annually.

Kibera, Nairobi- Part II

Solutions for improving the slums

Low cost flats:

  • 770  families rehoused
  • Inhabitants were involved in the planning
  • Running water, toilets and electricity were integrated into the plans
  • Lower crime rates than the slums
  • Gives pride in people and the community
  • Funded by the government, charities and private loans
  • Making homes permanent, as the shanty settlers have no right to the land they live on

A charity (Practical Action from the UK) has been developed to make low-cost roofing tiles for local people to use for roofing. Two main water pipes have been provided by the Kenyan government and the World Bank. Medical facilities are provided by charities, training locals. The UN Settlement Program provides affordable electricity at 300 Kenyan shillings per shack. Toilets and wash blocks were built and cess pits are regularly emptied. A Bio Gas Station has been built to manage human waste.

The UK government has funded sanitation projects and a UK charity has sponsored a community clinic called “soap box”. The NCC (Nairobi City Council) have introduced a market stall project to create employment, but people require primary credit to start their stalls. A primary school has been built for the slum for children that have been introduced by CFK (Carolina for Kibera, a charity run by the University of Carolina). Comic Relief supports the work in Kibera, particularly with AIDs.


KENSUP has a goal of improving the livelihood of 5.3 million slum dwellers in Kenya by 2020. The program started in 2001, and by 2003 a Memorandum of Understanding was signed by the Kenyan government and UN-HABITAT for a strategy for implementing this.

Dubai- Tourism

Dubai attracted 8.41 million tourists in 2010 and 14.26 million in 2014. It is now the 4th most visited city (after London, Bangkok and Paris). The majority of tourists are Middle Eastern.

In 1968 only 13 cars were registered in Dubai; now there is enough congestion that double Decker buses are being installed to remove some of the traffic.

Dubai is a leading city for tourist spending with over US$11.6 million being spent in 2015.

  • The first tourists came in 1892 when Dubai declared an exemption from taxing foreign traders; there is still a 0% income tax. This encourages the sale of holiday homes especially.
  • Success of modern flight providers has increased accessibility.
  • There are many one-off attractions such as the world’s largest aquarium and shopping centre.
  • Historically, Middle Eastern states have been unstable but the UAE has become more stable in recent years, removing political deterrants
  • Islamic law has become more lenient, allowing the drinking of alcohol and people wearing bikinis (although this is meant to be restricted to their own properties).
  • An increase in living capacity has encouraged tourists to stay longer and closer to the city. By January 2015 there were 93,030 hotel rooms in Dubai.

Cleaning up the Singapore river

The Singapore river and the Kallang Basin are a major river catchment and port area on the southern part of the island of Singapore. Major industrial and population growth in the area during the 1960’s and 1970’s turned the river basin into what was described as a “black, foul-smelling waterway devoid of any aquatic life”. The reasons for this were:

  • Raw sewage from squatter settlements flowing into the river
  • The river basin being used to dump waste by farmers and other residents
  • Chemical pollution from heavy industry and ships discharging polluted water into the basin

The Singapore government put in place an environmental action plan to clean up the area. This included moving squatter settlements into proper residential areas with sanitation facilities, the development of stricter pollution controls, and the removal of livestock from alongside the river

Once sources of pollution were removed, the whole area started to recover. Riverside walkways and parks have been built and thousands of trees planted. The beach along the Kallang Basin has been imrpoved with recreational facilities developed.

In 2008 the government announced a further plan to “transform the waterfront into a gathering place for recreational and cultural activities” by building a national stadium, leisure developments and further residential areas.

Kibera, Nairobi- Part I

Stat regarding the slum of Kibera, Nairobi

  • 44% of households have regular incomes
  • 80% of regular earners are classified as “poor” or in poverty
  • 70% of those employed are in wage employment
  • Half of all households live on less than US$10.50 per day
  • 50% unemployed
  • 40% cannot afford on a daily basis to buy enough food for their families
  • Population densities can exceed 90,000 people per km^2
  • 60% of Nairobi’s workers live in slums
  • Infant mortality rate is 200/1000
  • 95% of households have inadequate sanitation
  • 83% have a water source within 100m of their homes
  • 75 people can share a single latrine
  • The Nairobi City Council can collect 5% of the solid waste per day
  • 20 million people in Kenya have malaria
  • AIDS leads to 500 deaths daily in Kenya


Birmingham and Urban Improvements

Segregation and deprivation

Lozells vs Sutton Four Oaks

Lozells (just outside the CBD of the city, in the Inner city):

  • Population 27,980
  • Minority ethnic groups 82.6%
  • Unemployment at 23.6%

Sutton Four Oaks (to the North of the city):

  • Population 21,690
  • Minority ethnic groups 4.9%
  • Unemployment at 3.7%

Bournville is a notable district as it is a suburb with high manufacturing rates due to the Cadbury’s factory.

10% of patients in some A&E wards have to wait more than 4 hours to see a doctor.

Big City Plan

  • 170 acres of Eastside as an “area of transformation”
  • 1.5 million m^2 of floorspace being built
  • 50,000 new jobs
  • Contributing £2.1 x 10^9 per year
  • Well connected to the CBD
  • 65,000 m^2 of space

In the Big City Plan there are 5 areas of change:

  • New Street Station (already developed)
  • Westside (retail)
  • Snow Hill District (Offices)
  • Eastside (Academy, Park, HS2)
  • Southern Gateway (Public space, including a public square)

There will also be civic spaces, pedestrian zones and canals included in the plans.

New Street Station (renovated September 2015)

  • 500 people worked overnight for the deadline
  • 5,500 people moving through each day

The line infrastructure has not improved. The station did not have to be closed off for the renovations.

Brindly Place

New Technology Institute

Birmingham Ormiston Academy

This is an example of a very high tech school, with the aim to improve education of people in the inner city.

Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital

The hospital was opened in 2010, costing £545 million to be built. The hospital treated Malala Yousafzai (the youngest ever Nobel Prize laureate, who campaigned for girls’ education in Pakistan, and got shot in the head for this, hence needing treatment)

Dereliction in the Lower Lea Valley, London

In the 1970’s and 1980’s globalisation led to deindustrialisation of London. The Thames barrage has only made it harder for shipping to reach companies within the city. Along with this loss of industry came vast amounts of unemployment.

Some restaurants now provide beach volleyball, champagne and similar assets, after the renovations for the 2012 Olympics. The rest of this post concerns the past state of affairs before Newham became the site of the 2012 Olympic Park- and why it became that.

The Lower Lea Valley was used for the Olympic water park during the games. The canals had been unused for 30 years, so they were clogged by silt and weeds.

Newham contained 42% of London’s brownfield- previously used- land. Brownfield sites had been vacant for 20 to 30 years. It was unattractive to developers due to:

  • Being fragmented into small plots
  • Some sites containing pollutants that would need to be cleaned out
  • Being criss-crossed with overhead powerlines, sewers, waterways, roads and rail lines.

These factors all lead to the regeneration for the 2012 Olympic park being so expensive to build.