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Tue May 31 18:09:52 SAST 2016

Slum cities on increase

Nivashni Nair | 19 February, 2016 01:03
Durban architect Skura Mthembu said informal settlements and "slums" were a result of the exclusion of the poor in cities. File photo
Image by: Esa Alexander

Many more South Africans will be living in informal settlements within cities in the next 15 years.

Speaking at the Corobrik SAInstitute of Architects awards yesterday, architect Mokena Makeka said the growing number of homeless people was concerning as fast-growing populations were already putting pressure on cities globally.

Quoting data from the World Economic Forum, Makeka said the world population of squatters was expected to increase from 1billion out of 6billion in 2003 to 2billion out of 8.3billion in 2031.

Makeka said affordable and inclusive new "adaptive" cities with smart grids and full access were needed in South Africa.

Durban architect Skura Mthembu said informal settlements and "slums" were a result of the exclusion of the poor in cities.

"The hustle and bustle in the city provides people with hope for better opportunities economically and socially. There is connectivity and infrastructure. The problem with our cities is that they are based on the structure of our economy which is very capitalist in nature and it excludes many people."

Mthembu said informal settlements were hazardous.

"Informal settlements are not planned well and the outbreak of disease comes very easily. Firefighters cannot get through because each unit is not built within a safe distance to allow a fire truck to pass and the fire spreads quickly."

About "one-quarter of the world's urban population continues to live in slums", the UN estimates.

"Governments tend to pander to the needs of big business and the elite and often neglect the housing, sanitation, health and welfare needs of the urban poor. Factor in corruption and you have a very toxic mix," University of KwaZulu-Natal urban geography professor Brij Maharaj said.

He said a common government "quick fix" response to slums and informal settlement is "forced removals and evictions, which criminalises poverty and violates the rights of the indigent".

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