Man on bike selling fruit, Lodhi Colony, Delhi, India. Credit: Gail Wilson, University of Glasgow

Enter Now: Neighbourhood Matters – A Virtual Exhibition

Did you know that by 2050, nearly 70% of people will live in urban areas?

What is it like to live in one of the world’s largest and fastest-growing cities?

What makes your neighbourhood and city a sustainable place to live?

SHOW THE WORLD!

Send us your original photograph, painting, or self-drawn map showing what makes your neighbourhood sustainable for your chance to be entered into our international virtual exhibition as part of the ESRC’s 2020 Festival of Social Sciences. Prizes will be awarded to shortlisted entries.

Brief:

Rapid urban growth is one of the most important global challenges affecting all countries across the globe. By 2050, the United Nations estimates that 68% of the world’s population will live in cities. Urbanisation is shaping our everyday life in our local communities, but is it helping to make our neighbourhoods more, or less, sustainable?

From your daily commute to the weekly food shop and social gatherings we want to see your photograph, painting or self-drawn map that tell us what makes your neighbourhood sustainable.

Your entry should be authentic and show your own personal story of everyday life.

Where your entry will be shown and how your entry will be shortlisted:

Your entry and caption will be uploaded to the Centre for Sustainable, Healthy and Learning Cities and Neighbourhoods (SHLC)’s website and social media channels including Twitter and Instagram.

Our audience will then be invited to vote for (‘like’) their favourite image and let us know why in the comments section.

The top ten most liked images will be shortlisted to be shown as part of an hour-long virtual exhibition to take place via Zoom as part of ESRC’s 2020 Festival of Social Sciences at the University of Glasgow.

How to submit:

Download the submission form and submit your entry via email to shlc-info@glasgow.ac.uk by 18:00 (British Summer Time) 30 September.

Please include:

  • Photograph/painting/map – high-resolution attachment (at least 300 dpi at 3,000 pixels on the longest side)
  • Your first name and last name
  • Your contact email address
  • Your neighbourhood, city and country you live in
  • Title of your entry (no more than 30 words)
  • Caption (no more than 250 words)
  • Confirmation that it is your original work
  • Confirmation you have obtained the necessary consent

Eligibility and terms and conditions:

  • Entrants must be at least 18 years of age and submissions must be from Glasgow or one of SHLC’s partner countries: Bangladesh, China, India, the Philippines, Rwanda, South Africa, or Tanzania.
  • Entries must show ‘what makes your neighbourhood sustainable’ and must represent an urban, not a rural, neighbourhood.
  • Entries can be a photograph, painting, or self-drawn map. Entrants may submit up to three images (photograph, painting and/or map).
  • In order to ensure high-quality reproduction, we will require larger versions of shortlisted entries. All participants must be able to submit a high-resolution copy of their images upon request (at least 300 dpi at 3,000 pixels on the longest side).
  • Images can be landscape or portrait.
  • Entries must be your original work.
  • Entries must comply with ethical guidelines and have obtained appropriate consent. For more information on ethical guidelines see guidance from BOND or The Dóchas Code of Conduct.
  • Entries must do no harm to any people or places included in the photograph, painting or map.
  • By entering you grant SHLC an unrestricted, perpetual, royalty-free, non-exclusive license to publish, reproduce, display, distribute and create derivative works of the entries (along with a name credit). Such use may include, but is not limited to: a photo exhibit or slideshow featuring selected images from the contest; use for illustration purposes on the SHLC website and social media channels as well as any future SHLC publications. All entrants will be credited as the original producer of the image.

Ethics and informed consent:

Please ensure that people who are in the photo who are identifiable have given consent for their photo to be taken and shared either in writing or orally. We would also request that no photos involve children who are identifiable.

In addition, those persons in the photos should:

  • know how their images could be used for the exhibition and further work of SHLC;
  • know how long you will keep their image for;
  • know that they have a right to withdraw their consent at any time and be given details on how they would withdraw their consent should they wish to do so; and
  • be reassured that withdrawing consent is not just ok, it is their legal right.

If you are unable to obtain written consent then verbal consent would be the next option.

If it is difficult to get consent, then focus on capturing abstract images or images of large crowd scenes where people are not identifiable.

For more information on ethical guidelines see guidance from BOND or The Dóchas Code of Conduct.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  • Who are we?
    • We are the GCRF Centre for Sustainable, Healthy and Learning Cities and Neighbourhoods (SHLC). We are an international research consortium addressing urban, health and education challenges in 14 cities across Africa and Asia. SHLC is funded by the UK government’s Global Challenges Research Fund via UK Research and Innovation and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
  • What is the ESRC’s 2020 Festival of Social Sciences?
    • The Festival is an annual celebration of the social sciences that offers an insight into some of the leading social science research and how it influences our social, economic and political lives – both now and in the future. It aims to engage with policymakers, business, the public, and young people to raise their awareness of how social sciences shape public policy and contribute to making the economy more competitive, as well as giving people a better understanding of 21st-century society.
  • Who has usage rights to the images?
    • By entering you grant SHLC an unrestricted, perpetual, royalty-free, non-exclusive license to publish, reproduce, display, distribute and create derivative works of the entries (along with a name credit). Such use may include, but is not limited to: a photo exhibit or slideshow featuring selected images from the contest; use for illustration purposes on SHLC website and social media channels as well as future SHLC publications.
    • SHLC will always credit the original producer of the image.
    • SHLC will not be required to seek any additional approval in connection with such use.
  • How will submissions be scored?
    • All entries that meet the eligibility criteria will be uploaded SHLC’s website and social media channels (Twitter and Instagram).
    • Our audience will then be invited to vote for (‘like’) their favourite image via our social media channels and let us know why in the comments section.
    • The top ten most liked images will be shortlisted to be shown as part of an hour-long virtual exhibition to take place via Zoom and attendees will be invited to vote for their favourite image.
  • Are there prizes?
    • Yes! All shortlisted entries featured at the virtual exhibition will receive a photobook. The top three winning entries will receive a professionally printed and framed copy of their image.


A view towards town, Kigali, Rwanda

Fissures in Localizing Urban Sustainability: the Case of Rwanda

Reference: Malonza, J.M., Ortega, A.A. Fissures in localizing urban sustainability: the case of Rwanda. GeoJournal (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10708-020-10239-8

Abstract: Heralded as a paragon of sustainability in Africa, Rwanda’s development programs and plans have been attuned to global narratives of sustainability, particularly the SDGs. However, the country’s effort and dedication to localizing sustainability is faced with several challenges, which may result to critical ruptures to program implementation and efficacy.

Rwanda, being the most rapidly urbanizing country in Africa coupled by its political will to attain sustainable urbanization makes it a good case study for this research. Due to the accelerating urbanization, Kigali city, as the trendsetter for Rwanda’s economy and a driver for environmental sustainability, has also increasingly become an important agent of change.

Focusing on the domestication of urban sustainability in Kigali, this paper identifies fissures in localizing sustainability particularly in the development of the 2013 Kigali city Masterplan. These fissures stem from the (1) ‘‘international’’ production of a city Master-plan, (2) spatial mismatch of designs, and (3) top-down approach in conceptualizing sustainability.

Towards the end of the paper, we offer some ameliorative insights that advocate for a bottom-up approach that not only engages with communities but also co-produces community and city plans with marginalized groups. We argue that cultivating grounded practices and indigenous knowledge on sustainability will bridge the gap between city plans and community visions.


High density housing in an informal settlement, Kigali, Rwanda. Credit: Ya Ping Wang, University of Glasgow

The Road to Sustainable Kigali: A Contextualized Analysis of the Challenges

Reference: Baffoe G, Ahmad S, Bhandari R. The road to sustainable Kigali: A contextualized analysis of the challenges. Cities. 2020;105:102838. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cities.2020.102838

Abstract: Rwanda, despite being a predominantly rural country, has remarkably performed in the post-conflict (late 1990s) period on the socio-economic fronts. Contemporary challenges in Rwanda’s capital city, Kigali, are widespread informality, both in the economy and urban built environment. Informality significantly hinders human health and wellbeing attainment.

This paper assesses the development trajectory of Kigali with reference to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) using mixed research methods, including field visit. In doing so, the study dwells on three theories; postcolonial urbanism, post-conflict state building and neoliberalism.

The paper diagnoses informality, polarized health sector and governance, as critical limitations to the attainment of sustainable development in Kigali. It argues that urban development in post-conflict Kigali is deeply rooted in capitalist and neoliberal ideology, where the state functions as the architect and facilitator of wealth accumulation for the few elites.

Based on the analyses of the current development patterns, inclusive governance is identified as a key intervention to achieve sustainable development in Kigali.


View of Dodoma city, Tanzania. Credit: Ifakara Health Institute.

Webinar with UN-Habitat: Urban-Rural Linkages in the Time of COVID-19 - Neighbourhood Governance and Community Response

Webinar with UN-Habitat: Urban-Rural Linkages in the Time of COVID-19 - Neighbourhood Governance and Community Response

The fifth session of this webinar series, Urban-Rural Linkages in the time of COVID-19: Urban Neighbourhood Governance and Community Response, jointly organised by UN-Habitat’s Urban-Rural Linkages project and the GCRF Centre for Sustainable Healthy and Learning Cities and Neighbourhoods (SHLC), explored how a local response at the neighbourhood level can help cities in developing countries respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

View full concept note.

SPEAKERS: 

  • Remy Sietchiping (CHAIR), Head of Policy, Legislation, and Governance Section, UN-Habitat
  • Maria Teresa Nogales, Founder & Executive Director at Alternativas Foundation
  • Mario Delos-Reyes, University of the Philippines School of Urban and Regional Planning (UP SURP), President & CEO Centre for Neighbourhood Studies (CeNS) and Co-Investigator SHLC
  • Erika Salem, Programme Officer, Montréal – Métropole en santé
  • Francis Levira, Ifakara Health Institute and Co-Investigator SHLC

 OBJECTIVES:

  • Learn more about the adaptation and innovation of neighbourhood governance structures in the face of COVID-19
  • Develop a deep understanding of concrete interventions by different neighbourhood governance configurations to manage urban-rural flows of people, resources, and capital during the pandemic.
  • Discuss the contribution of urban-rural linkages and integrated territorial approaches to handle the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and post-crisis recovery in neighbourhoods.


Urban slum, Delhi, India. Credit: Sistak, Flickr

Webinar with UN-Habitat: Urban-Rural Linkages in the Time of COVID-19 - Impact on the Urban Poor and Slum Dwellers in Asia and Africa

Webinar with UN-Habitat: Urban-Rural Linkages in the Time of COVID-19 - Impact on the Urban Poor and Slum Dwellers in Asia and Africa

The fourth session of this webinar series, Urban-Rural Linkages in the time of COVID-19: Impact on the urban poor and slum dwellers in Asia and Africa, jointly organised by UN-Habitat with the GCRF Centre for Sustainable Healthy and Learning Cities and Neighbourhoods (SHLC), examined the impacts of COVID-19 on the urban poor and slum dwellers through the lens of urban-rural linkages in African and Asian cities.

View full concept note.

Watch video recording and download presentations via links below.

AGENDA AND SPEAKERS:

  • Welcome and Introduction
  • Opening remarks – Dr Shipra Narang, Chief, Urban Practices Branch, UN-Habitat
  • Joseph Muturi, Slum Dwellers International
  • Professor David Everatt, School of Governance University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, Chairperson South African Statistics Council and Co-Investigator SHLC
  • Professor Debolina Kundu, National Institute of Urban Affairs (India), and Co-Investigator SHLC
  • Kerstin Sommer, Participatory Slum Upgrading Programme, UN-Habitat
  • Moderated discussion and Q&A
  • Takeaway and insights
  • Vote of thanks

OBJECTIVES:

  • Develop a deeper understanding on the impacts of COVID-19 pandemic on slum dwellers and the urban poor.
  • Discuss the contributions of urban-rural linkages and integrated territorial approaches to address the needs of slum dwellers and the urban poor in the face of COVID-19.

GUIDING QUESTIONS:

  • What are the territorial characteristics of slums in the city?
  • To what extent are the COVID-19 response measures enforced in slums?
  • What is the impact of COVID-19 on slum dwellers and what are their coping mechanism?
  • How are the impacts of COVID-19 on slum dwellers related to urban-rural flows of people, food, water, resources? How are communities in slum areas handling these links to face the crisis?
  • What actions can be taken by government and other actors to address the different needs of slums dwellers while strengthening urban-rural linkages in the face of COVID-19?
  • What capacities and institutions should be strengthened to take these actions?

BACKGROUND:

The COVID-19 pandemic has serious impacts for people all over the world. These impacts are differentiated by social, economic and spatial inequalities, which pose distinctive challenges for slum dwellers and the urban poor. This demands special attention from governments at all levels, international organisations, local institutions, and academic and civil society actors.

SHLC researchers based at the National Institute of Urban Affairs of India, together with World Vision India, will share insights from a recent telephone survey exploring COVID-19 impact on slum dwellers and the urban poor in Indian cities. Researchers from the SHLC team based in South Africa will share insights about the current situation in Johannesburg.

UN-Habitat started a process beginning in 2015 that culminated in 2019 with numerous stakeholders agreeing the Urban-Rural Linkages: Guiding Principles and Framework for Action to Advance Integrated Territorial Development (URL-GP). The ten guiding principles seek to orientate the actions of different actors to reduce spatial inequalities and unequal access to resources and services across the urban-rural continuum. It is both important to understand and recognise the needs of slum dwellers and discuss the contribution of urban-rural perspectives so that no one in these communities is left behind.


Capacity Building in Neighbourhood Level Research: My Personal Gains

In this blog, Dr Abubakar Danladi Isah from the Federal University of Technology Minna, Nigeria describes how learning about neighbourhood level research has helped strengthen his capacity to conduct urban research and why, for him, engaging with community residents is what matters most. All views are attributable to the author and are not the views of SHLC.

My participation in the neighbourhood research capacity building workshop hosted by Centre for Housing and Sustainable Development (CHSD) University of Lagos, Akoka gave me the ability to view the neighbourhood from three distinct but connected thoughts—people, life and community. It also exposed me to the acquisition of skills on neighbourhood level research.

Rules of engagement

Learning about different engagement methods, such as co-production, is going to be of significance use in my future research. The workshop has given me a spectrum of strategies that will help me synergise the trio of research, theory and experience, as well as incorporate neighbourhood policies and communities’ lived experience towards offering sustainable and impactful research solutions. This approach aligns strongly with my PhD research, which focused on the benefits of lived experiences and transformations made by residents living in public housing neighbourhoods. Learning new knowledge focused on multi-level techniques and tools of neighbourhood research, like street mapping, beyond traditional methods was amazing.

Meeting Urban Residents at Neighbourhood Level Research Workshop, Nigeria. Credit: University of Lagos

Talking to urban communities

I also enjoyed learning more about research and community dissemination techniques such as the message box, policy brief, OpEd, blogs and particularly enjoyed exploring non-academic routes like the use of literature, poetry, drama and media, which are innovations I feel are worthy of including in my own practice. I feel this is necessary in order to reach a wider audience even beyond the communities where the researches are conducted. It can also help guarantee the understanding of the appropriate messages by communities and other stakeholders who are likely to implement and benefit from the research output. When using tools like this, it is important to ensure that the problem is tangibly outlined, the need is addressed, the solution is presented and the benefit is packaged. These means neighbourhoods and communities are anticipating something of interest worth their sacrifice and participation that will ultimately benefit them at the end of the day. Researchers must focus on this end goal when thinking about how to disseminate their research.

"When using tools like this [for example, message box or drama], it is important to ensure that the problem is tangibly outlined, the need is addressed, the solution is presented and the benefit is packaged. These means neighbourhoods and communities are anticipating something of interest worth their sacrifice and participation that will ultimately benefit them at the end of the day."

Getting out into the field

As part of the workshop, I had an opportunity to take part in a field trip that provided me with a deeper understanding of people and their neighbourhoods beyond my own perceptions and assumptions. It also gave me the opportunity to appreciate coping strategies adopted by neighbourhoods in order to survive threats of environmental hazards, health challenges and natural occurrences in the absence of alternatives.

I saw some people living on waste that they used as a building material. These people are usually ready to work with anyone having lost the trust of government authorities. I also saw that space constraints and seclusion stopped physical interaction in some neighbourhoods. Despite the wide disparity of lifestyle and status, what was seen to be common among all neighbourhoods are problems that require intervention beyond their own capacity, which is aggravated because these people are not usually captured in neighbourhood and city planning leading to problems such as housing and infrastructure deficits.

It was particularly interesting to interact with experts, community residents and hear their expectations from engagement with researchers and local authorities. I was particularly impressed to know that communities participate and engage experts to validate research developments. The role of community development and welfare associations cannot be understated. Even though each community has its unique story and situation, these associations form forces that unite them to fight for common interests.  I learned that knowledge of community boundaries, social structure, social capital and leadership structure is important in designing entry strategies and engagement activities. Community ‘arrowheads’ are identified in order to gain initial access and sustain the trust from inhabitants. Most importantly, I learnt the need to gain the community’s trust and also sustain this trust throughout the process. That is how the co-production approach can be assured and the research plan successfully completed. I also learnt the importance of engaging the communities on a neutral mind and integrating into their lifestyle in order to assure them of commitment to their problems and gaining their trust.

Future funding

Neighbourhood research is complex and time-consuming, but rewarding, and requires grants from donor agencies particularly for early carrier researchers who have the enthusiasm, capacity and awareness to investigate sustainable neighbourhoods. This workshop has taught me how to seek funding through accessing grants to aid neighbourhood research from theory to implementation. Also, the broad variety of co-researchers from diverse background I met with gave me an understanding that multifaceted neighbourhood research requires multi-disciplinary research approach.

One issue that really stood out for me is the fact that different neighbourhoods each have unique and general issues. Whilst there is a lot of data available for research in these domains, there seems to be a disconnect between research output, its application and feeding back to communities. It became obvious that inhabitants somehow track research promises but rarely get the opportunity to feedback. From this workshop, I learned that good research must enable residents to track promised research outputs and ensure the anticipated benefits are achieved through co-production.

I am looking forward to leveraging the opportunities from the workshop and the network and focusing my role as a teacher and researcher on engaging with communities to create impact and add value to their lives.

This neighbourhood research workshop and fieldwork were hosted by the University of Lagos and funded by SHLC’s Capacity Development Acceleration Fund


Neighbourhood Level Research to the Rescue

In this blog, Lola Akande from the Department of English,  Faculty of Arts, University of Lagos, examines why interdisciplinary research at the neighbourhood level is crucial for urban sustainability. All views are the author’s own and not attributable to SHLC.

The physical and natural landscape has always been at the centre of environmental discourses. From the trees to the soil, to animals, mountains, and the air, the environment remains a topic for serious deliberation. Man is arguably the most prominent element in the environment because humans inhabit the landscape; they plant, weed, grow trees, rear livestock, but unfortunately also pollute the environment. Humans are therefore central to all discourses about the environment because they are its caretakers. Every worthwhile discussion on the environment should put human action in the spotlight. In most parts of Africa including Nigeria, residents of growing cities are being confronted by acute poverty, where quality healthcare facilities, potable water, food and good road networks are grossly inadequate. Over time, this has tended to degrade the environment and many neighbourhoods within the city are steadily harming the healthy growth of the environment. The good news, however, is that neighbourhoods are addressing this challenge.

The University of Lagos Centre for Housing and Sustainable Development recently hosted a neighbourhood level research workshop aimed at strengthening the capacity of early career researchers across Nigerian universities to undertake neighbourhood level research. During the workshop, humans as the predominant inhabitant of the environment became the main theme of discussion.

Neighbourhood Level Research Workshop, Nigeria. Credit: University of Lagos

This five-day workshop, funded by the Centre for Sustainable, Healthy and Learning Cities as part of the UK government’s Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) included, early career academics and researchers from eighteen universities across Nigeria. During the workshop, researchers were put into different groups and each group was assigned the responsibility of visiting and finding out the challenges being faced by the people of different neighbourhoods in Lagos with a particular focus on health, housing and education. Professionals from local organisations accompanied the researchers acting as intermediaries to help connect us with the residents. One of the goals of the workshop was to engage with residents of these neighbourhoods to discover their most important needs so that we could draw up research plans that could include and respond to their challenges.

"The neighbourhood level research workshop helped me to understand that neighbourhoods are about people, their lives and communities. During the workshop, we were able to compile a list of the needs of residents in the different neighbourhoods we visited with the intention of finding ways to educate relevant government agencies about the pressing needs of residents."

The neighbourhood level research workshop helped me to understand that neighbourhoods are about people, their lives and communities. During the workshop, we were able to compile a list of the needs of residents in the different neighbourhoods we visited with the intention of finding ways to educate relevant government agencies about the pressing needs of residents. At a post-workshop roundtable at the University of Lagos, workshop participants developed a document which could serve as recommendations to government on how it could provide assistance to people, working on a budget of three million naira.

For me, one of the highlights of the workshop was its attention on interdisciplinary research and engaging other disciplines. I felt the interdisciplinary focus was successful in broadening the scope and depth of our neighbourhood research. Speaking about interdisciplinary research at the workshop, the co-director of the University of Lagos Centre for Housing and Sustainable Development, Dr. Taibat Lawanson said that having researchers from different fields would help in broadening the horizon of workshop participants, and that making new friends, networking with people from different fields would promote greater impacts. I am looking forward to putting interdisciplinary neighbourhood research methods into practice!

This neighbourhood research workshop and fieldwork were hosted by the University of Lagos and funded by SHLC’s Capacity Development Acceleration Fund


Prioritising Sustainable Livelihoods in Urban Slums: Lessons from the Neighbourhood Research Field Trip in Lagos, Nigeria

In this blog, James Okolie-Osemene from Wellspring University, reflects on what he learned from a recent training workshop on neighbourhood research, and notes the importance of community actors and associations in gaining trust of communities. The views are the authors own and are not attributable to SHLC.

Urban sustainability has become one of the dominant discourses in contemporary Nigerian society.

Population increase, urban crime, water scarcity, and inadequate infrastructure means that daily life is associated with risks. The city is known for noise pollution, congestion, and litter as a result poor refuse disposal, among other negative attributes, and various governments have no other option other than to embark on urban renewal to restore sanity and stabilise neighbourhoods.

Sustainable livelihoods are critical for the welfare of families living in slum areas. As already noted by urban scholars, city life is characterised by neighbourhood experience in which different social groups emerge in communities where they choose their location. This explains the existence of slums and other informal settlements in urban areas.

There is hardly any urban area in Nigeria that does not have locations that are exclusively populated by low-income earners who do not have the financial capacity to rent houses in more developed areas with modern housing units and related infrastructure.

Gaining trust with insider knowledge

To investigate and address issues in slum areas neighbourhood studies can be conducted with different methodological approaches, either qualitative or quantitative. But at the workshop, I learned that these approaches require innovation in observation, interaction, information sharing, and ethical consideration. During the field investigation in Ebute-Ilaje, we were welcomed to the peaceful community at the community hall.  Entry points were a really important part of the field trip, and different groups of researchers were assisted to hold interviews by community members (insiders) who have excellent knowledge of the study area and had already initiated discussions before researchers began to present their research questions. These entry points were instrumental in helping to facilitate the interviews and made it possible for the residents to have confidence in the researchers to protect their interest.

In fact, insiders’ presence, language use and influence in the study area helped us complete the fieldwork as planned. With them leading the way at waterlogged Ilaje, due to overflowing Lagos Lagoon, researchers had the courage to cross the flooded walkways.

The entry points, who are members of the slum dwellers association, developed the participatory model that was used by the researchers, which helped to prevent suspicion and negative community perception about the intention of the researchers. The transect walk and in-depth interviews conducted during the field investigation enabled the researchers to engage with residents and also observe the environmental, health and development problems that undermine sustainable livelihoods in the community. This approach enriched the observations as researchers moved from one household to another.

Community member facilitated interviews with urban residents, Nigeria. Credit: University of Lagos
"During the field investigation in Ebute-Ilaje, we were welcomed to the peaceful community at the community hall.  Entry points were a really important part of the field trip, and different groups of researchers were assisted to hold interviews by community members (insiders) who have excellent knowledge of the study area... These entry points were instrumental in helping to facilitate the interviews and made it possible for the residents to have confidence in the researchers to protect their interest."

Takeaway lessons from field observations

My main observations from the field trip are:

  • Lagos has several informal settlements because of rapidly increasing rural-urban migration that now makes the state an attractive destination for people who want to relocate and search for greener pastures whether as young graduates/school leavers or as artisans/skilled workers. Unfortunately, many of these migrants are underprepared financially find it hard to secure decent accommodation with needed infrastructure. Residing in the slum appears to be the only option for most of the people found in such neighbourhoods due to higher housing cost in the urban areas.
  • Living in an environment that is not adequately maintained can become a threat to healthy living and peacefulness causing sicknesses due to lack of hygiene facilities. Prioritising neighbourhood development needs of slum communities cannot be overemphasised especially in contemporary Nigerian society where informal settlements have increased and seem almost inevitable considering the rising cost of living. Daily challenges of life continue to relegate many people to housing choices they would not have preferred if given the opportunity to choose.
  • Women and girls are incredibly resourceful as they engage in food provision for their families, trade and teaching. The men have been active in community self-help initiative including refilling of waterlogged areas for easy mobility and channelling of water into the Lagoon. Most times, the self-help initiatives within these communities have been helpful in making life better but cannot be said to be adequate based on the current environmental and health realities in those areas.
  • Daily life in informal settlements is characterised by self-help initiatives. Overcoming neighbourhood health and environmental challenges demand that stakeholders within and outside the neighbourhoods are able to establish community environmental monitoring groups responsible for assessing and following up issues of environmental protection. Prioritising sustainable livelihoods around the slums will make life easier for low income earners and reduce threats with appreciable impact on the entire society.

This neighbourhood research workshop and fieldwork were hosted by the University of Lagos and funded by SHLC’s Capacity Development Acceleration Fund


Outside water tap in Madanpur Khadar Resettlement Colony, Delhi, India. Credit: Gail Wilson, University of Glasgow

The ‘Luxury’ of Home Quarantine

Reflecting on Indian cities’ response to COVID-19, exclusive access to basic amenities and hygiene practices highly correlate with affordability, says Prof Debolina Kundu and Biswajit Kar. This article was originally published by Telangana Today. The views in this article are those of the author and not attributable to SHLC.

India is under a public health emergency, with hotspots of the pandemic highly localised in certain cities, although it has impacted the life of all citizens across the country and livelihood of the informal sector. With those infected crossing the one-lakh-mark, Covid-19 really throws an insurmountable challenge before the country where health facilities are not geared to deal with it.

The slums in most cities have become hotbeds of the pandemic due to congestion, overcrowding, lack of proper sanitation and water supply. On the contrary, home quarantine, social distancing and regular handwashing have been highly recommended to prevent the spread of infection. Since the virus is contagious, use of separate toilets and bathrooms is recommended along with frequent handwashing with soap.

Larger picture

The pandemic has brought to the forefront the challenges urban India is facing with regard to home quarantine and social distancing given the dearth of adequate housing and basic amenities, with over 17% of the population living in slums. Given this scenario, it is important to analyse what percentage of households have a separate room, exclusive access to toilet and handwashing facilities to arrange complete isolation of patients.

The 2011 Census data shows that the problem of adequate housing is severe in metropolitan cities and slums, where 37.6% and 57% of the households reside in just one room respectively. Greater Mumbai, where the share of population living in slums is around 50%, has 64.7% of the households living in just one room. Highly dense slums make the practice of social distancing challenging.

Basic amenities

Exclusive access to basic amenities is not uniform across urban India. The recent round of the National Sample Survey on Drinking Water, Sanitation, Hygiene and Housing Condition in India, 2018, shows that a quarter of the urban population do not have exclusive access to bathroom and toilet facilities whereas only 57.5% households have exclusive access to a principal source of drinking water. These figures corroborate the fact that social distancing and handwashing are limited to affluent households, who are privileged to have exclusive access to basic amenities.

In contrast, poor households are constrained by poor availability of basic amenities. Lack of exclusive access to basic amenities poses further challenge. Also, half of the slum households have water supply outside premises, and a quarter depend on community toilets (Census 2011). The figures worsen in non-notified slums where about 70% of the households do not have exclusive access to drinking water.

Therefore, the risk of spread of the virus is high in such localities as is seen in Dharavi and slum clusters in other cities. The situation with regard to hygiene is really grim in slums where almost 60% of the households have basic amenities outside their premises or need to share the facilities with other households.

"The situation with regard to hygiene is really grim in slums where almost 60% of the households have basic amenities outside their premises or need to share the facilities with other households."
Outside water tap in Madanpur Khadar Resettlement Colony, Delhi, India. Credit: Gail Wilson, University of Glasgow
Outside water tap in Madanpur Khadar Resettlement Colony, Delhi, India. Credit: Gail Wilson, University of Glasgow

Handwashing without water

Only 56% of urban households wash hands with water and soap/detergent before meals. The figure drops to about 40% in slums. The availability of soap and water in latrines is around 60% in slums. Importantly, over 20% of slum-dwellers do not practise handwashing after defecation substituting their handwashing with ash/mud/sand.

In million-plus cities, the better off localities report the highest share of households who wash hands with soap before a meal. These households also report higher access to exclusive services as compared with non-metro cities. In India, exclusive access to basic amenities and hygiene practices are highly correlated with affordability, the inequality rising with regard to exclusive access to bathrooms and latrines.

Only about 40% of poor households go for handwashing with water and soap/detergent before meals. The Scheduled Tribes and Castes households face higher deprivation with regard to exclusive access to basic amenities, which limits their hygiene practices.

Differently-abled

Possibly, the most ‘unheard’ section of society in the time of pandemic is the differently-abled population. Eight million differently-abled people reside in urban India with Urban Maharashtra reporting the highest share (Census 2011).

The pandemic has been most widespread in this State. Accessing basic amenities and maintaining minimum hygiene remain a challenge for these people, especially those living in slums.

Serious Challenges

Extreme congestion in low-income informal settlements stands in the way of home quarantine of suspected Covid-19 patients, especially in cities where government facilities for the same are not available. Coupled with this, lack of access to exclusive basic amenities compels households to share services. Also, lack of the habit of handwashing before and after meals and defecation are important challenges that need to be addressed if the guidelines of home quarantine, social distancing and regular hand washing need to be adhered to by the poor, in case of infection.

The challenge is serious in non-notified slums and squatters where coverage of services is still poor and households need to queue up for water or use community toilets or defecate in the open. Patients from such poor households living in slums while sharing basic amenities with other households, run the risk of community transmission. Provision of minimum standard of living with adequate living space and exclusive access to basic amenities is the sine qua non to addressing the pandemic, which currently seems a distant dream.

"Provision of minimum standard of living with adequate living space and exclusive access to basic amenities is the sine qua non to addressing the pandemic, which currently seems a distant dream."

Students prepare data sheets from their field data sheets under the supervision of Nafisa Anjum, Research Associate. Credit: SHLC-BD

Training Neighbourhood Sustainability Champions at Khulna University

In this blog, our team in Bangladesh reflects on how they are utilising the collaborative design of our international urban research project to help train early career researchers and future urban planners with the skills they need to understand and support sustainable neighbourhoods.

As part of our research activities for the Centre for Sustainable, Healthy and Learning Cities and Neighbourhoods (SHLC), we were tasked with understanding sustainability at the neighbourhood level in Dhaka and Khulna. During the theoretical and conceptual development for this research task, the Bangladesh team realised that conducting a sustainability audit of neighbourhoods is seldom practised in Bangladesh. When we spoke to expert academics we noticed that attempts to apply a holistic spatial approach for neighbourhood auditing have been limited.

So, we decided to work closely with future planners and early career academics to transfer skills for sustainability auditing at the neighbourhood level, co-understand the critical issues regarding sustainability in Bangladeshi neighbourhoods and create ‘neighbourhood sustainability champions’ for the promotion of neighbourhood sustainability thinking for future urban planning research and practice.

More than 40 undergraduate students and two faculty members of the Urban and Rural planning Discipline at Khulna University took part in our training activities. Participants were involved in our neighbourhood fieldwork and data entry and played a major role in conducting the Neighbourhood Sustainability Audit (NSA). Students now have new theortical knowledge of sustainable neighbourhoods and firsthand practical experience in applying innovative tools to conduct a neighbourhod sustainability audit.

Briefing session on neighbourhood sustainability at Khulna University. Credit: SHLC-BD
Briefing session on neighbourhood sustainability at Khulna University. Credit: SHLC-BD

Training in action: lets get to work

As a first step, students and teachers were introduced to the concept of a sustainable neighbourhood during lectures and practical studio work as part of their course on ‘Urban Development Planning’. After introductory lectures, students were then asked to develop their own conceptual framework to conduct a neighbourhood sustainability audit.

Students got the chance to compare their ideas with the wider SHLC tools and during a participatory workshop, they helped co-develop tools that can fit the local Bangladeshi context whilst also capturing international perspectives of neighbourhood sustainability.

Dr. Shilpi Roy and Professor Tanjil Sowgat brief Khulna University students on neighbourhood sustainability audit. Credit: SHLC-BD
Dr. Shilpi Roy and Professor Tanjil Sowgat brief Khulna University students on neighbourhood sustainability audit. Credit: SHLC-BD

Students then got the chance to apply the tools in the field. Over an intensive 23 days of fieldwork o they researched 14 neighbourhoods in Dhaka and Khulna using a variety of sustainability tools such as, neighbourhood history, housing,  land use pattern,  and location of key recreation facilities, analysis of roads, drains and footpaths. SHLC’s urban research team in Bangladesh supported and supervised the students to help share knowledge and solve problems.

Khulna University students interviewing an urban resident. Credit: SHLC-BD
Khulna University students interviewing an urban resident. Credit: SHLC-BD

Once the raw data were gathered, they learned how to prepare fresh data sheets to support the data entry process, which was used to underpin spatial data analysis using tools like SPSS, ArcGIS, R and Stata.

Students prepare data sheets from their field data sheets under the supervision of Nafisa Anjum, Research Associate. Credit: SHLC-BD
Students prepare data sheets from their field data sheets under the supervision of Nafisa Anjum, Research Associate. Credit: SHLC-BD

Putting lessons into practice

These training activities engaged 40 students as well as 800 people from 17 communities in Dhaka and Khulna. Professor Tanjil Sowgat, In-Country CO-Investigator for  the SHLC team in Bangladesh said:

 ‘‘Through active engagement and learning, this training has promoted new thinking around creating sustainable neighbourhoods and applying tools, like the neighbourhood sustainability audit,  among students studying our Urban and Rural Planning discipline.’’

Students engaged in the event said that they benefited profoundly from this practical training and the experience created an amazing learning opportunity for them. Rabeya Sultana Oishi, a student, added:

 ‘‘I have learnt a lot from this engagement. I am now more aware of the key issues around the sustainability of our neighbourhoods and intend to do further research in the coming days.’’

Three students already decided to conduct their final year thesis on neighbourhood sustainability and many more showed interest in focusing their future studies on ‘neighbourhood planning’. Paula, who just has started her dissertation, stated:

‘‘Diversity and isolation are two interesting players in neighbourhood sustainability. I realised these issues while conducting the interviews during SHLC fieldwork. I want to do my thesis on this and want to contribute to the future knowledge’’.

Students at Khulna University prepare data sheets for GIS analysis. Credit: SHLC-BD
Students at Khulna University prepare data sheets for GIS analysis. Credit: SHLC-BD

Field surveys helped students understand a new and innovative tool in understanding the neighbourhoods, and they intend to use this knowledge in future. Abdullah Haque Abir said:

‘‘It was a once in a lifetime experience for me. From this event, I learnt about different tools and their application for assessing the sustainability of a neighbourhood. This project also taught time management and how to co-produce work through joint efforts.”

Jobaer Ahmed added:

“SHLC has provided an opportunity to have professional experience before our graduation. It helped to develop communication skills, filed work management skills and teamwork”.  

Building skills for our urban leaders of the future

Practical training achieved two outcomes: ensuring efficient data collection for the wider SHLC urban research project whilst also building capacity of the students and faculty members through fieldwork experience and sharing of knowledge.

Dr. Shilpi Roy, Co-Investigator for the SHLC project in Bangladesh said:

‘‘We initially wanted to hire professional surveyors for the Neighbourhood Sustainability Audit, Then, we thought that we could instead transfer our knowledge and skill to our students and teachers by engaging them in our fieldwork.  They are now inspired, motivated and committed to the delivery of sustainable communities as the future planners’’.

Shilpi’s comment was echoed by many students. Samiul Islam said:

“Working with such intelligent and exemplary leaders, coordinators, and group mates in such an international project was a great experience. Thanks to Team-SHLC-Bangladesh for introducing us to the new tools and techniques for sustainability assessment.”

For more information, watch this photomontage of the event via Youtube.