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.

Housing

  • 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.

Employment

  • 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

Waste

  • 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.

Waste

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.

Responses

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.

Waste: 

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.

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

 

London Waste management

London’s (relatively) affluent standards of living for residents generate 4.4 million tons of household waste annually. London’s waste is collected daily by about 500 collection vehicles, barges, containers and other transporters. It is transported to 18 landfill sites, 2 incinerators, 23 recycling centres, 2 compost centres and 2 energy-from-waste plants. The volume easily exceeds the capacity of London’s landfill sites. 76% of London’s waste is transported out by road, rail or barge. Some sites are 120 km from the capital.

The biggest sites are Calvert in Buckinghamshire, Stewartby in Bedfordshire and Appleford in Oxfordshire. Calvert is a landfill site occupying a disused quarry. Clays are impermeable so toxins here are trapped. The site recieves 2,000 tons of waste a day from London. Methane extracted from the site fuels a small power station which generates energy for 4,000 homes. Solid waste is transported to 9 landfill sites around London.

Pollution  can escape from landfill and also landfill contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. It also takes up land in an overcrowded area.

The capital’s waste is expected to increase to 6.5 million tons annually in 2020, largely because of the 800,000 people who are predicted to have arrived after the end of 2005.

One solution would be to extend recycling schemes and reduce the amount of waste going to landfill. So far, London’s recycling record is poor, with 5 of the 12 lowest recycling records for the UK being within London. To achieve targets, London has to hextuple its levels of recycling.

Curitiba, the Most Livable City

 Curitiba has a population of 2.5 million, and is the first Brazilian city to have delegated bus lanes as part of its integrated transport system.

Buses

The Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) system has four elements:

  • Direct line buses, operating at key pick-up points and running directly into the city centre
  • Speedy buses, operating on five main routes into and out of the city with limited stops
  • Inter-district buses, joining up districts without entering the city centre
  • Feeder mini-buses, picking up people from residential areas and taking them to terminal points on main routes

The system has a smart card system and terminals have shops, cafes and a post office. The BRT is like a cheaper rail service. The local authority has recently switched to using a mixture of diesel and biofuel which is less polluting than just diesel and also helps encourage farming and agriculture. The system maintains 2,100 buses along 385 lines. There are 5000 bus stops, 351 tube stations and 29 integrating terminals.

  • 1.3 million passengers per day
  • 80% of all commuters using the buses
  • 30 million fewer car trips per year

Waste disposal

In 1989, Curitiba became Brazil’s first city with widespread recycling facilities. Since then 419,000 tons have been separated out. 70% of the waste is recycled. The waste disposal has focused on employing the previously unemployed, including the homeless and those recovering from substance (mostly alcohol) abuse. Recovered materials are sold to local industries and fund social programs.

Green exchange

Residents of 6 neighbourhoods have been able to bring waste to centres where they have exchanged 1,000 tons of garbage for nearly a million bus tokens and 1,200 tons of food since 1991. 7,000 people benefit from about 44 tons of food annually at the moment. In 3 years, 100 schools traded 200 tons for 1.9 million books. It improves the diet of the poor and earns farmers business.

Green space

When flood control was distributed out in the 1970’s, the city used funding to but spare land and made a network of 30 parks including lakes.The city has 51 m^2 of green space per person and an effective flood control system.

There are 200 km of cycle paths and 1.5 million trees along streets. Builders get tax breaks if they integrate green space into their plans. Land around the parks is more valuable, so helps fund the city’s economy. 

Cultural heritage

Buildings are often put to use in new ways and buses when retired are used as mobile classrooms or offices. A flooded quarry turned into the Wire Opera House in two months, and another into the Free University of the Environment. The refuse dump became a botanical garden.

Down town areas have been pedestrianised somewhat, including a 24-hour mall.

The “Sol Criado” system finances restoration of historical buildings, and creation of green spaces. Buildings can be built to a “maximum” height, and if they are, they have to donate money to the Sol Criado system.

Housing

Since 1990, the Municipal Housing Fund has provided financial support for housing. After the national housing collapse in 1985, people came into Curitiba, and the city’s public housing program bought up the last empty large plot available within the city- which had enough space for 50,000 houses.   Landowners built the homes themselves and each received a pair of trees and a housing consultation with an architect.

(Image Sources: http://www.worldatlas.com/sa/br/pr/where-is-curitiba.html http://www.orenstransitpage.com/otpbrazilpics/curitiba16-30.htm (Oren Hirsch, 2010) http://en.unesco.org/creative-cities/curitiba http://en.unesco.org/creative-cities/curitiba )