Slum improvement

Making life easier for people living in slums

We’ve all seen pictures and television footage of people living in slums across the world. But what you might not know is that there’s a slum population of more than one billion people and that by 2020, this figure is expected to double.

Imagine living in this suffocating overcrowded environment surrounded by mounds of uncollected dirty waste. In many slums, a family of six will share a space no bigger than one small room. The only areas for children to play are breeding grounds for flies, cockroaches and rats; increasing the health risks for many people.

Practical Action are helping to improve the standard of living in slums, sustainably; with the intention that future generations can have adequate access to basic infrastructure services such as electricity, water and sanitation, housing, or household waste collection.

The aim is to improve the quality of life for poor people by providing access to clean water, improved sanitation, and waste management services; and supporting secure land tenure and affordable housing.

  • To strengthen the capacity of local people and their institutions to engage with local authorities and other service providers for the sustainable provision of basic services.
  • To scale-up the delivery of basic infrastructure services for safe water, sanitation, better and affordable housing, waste removal and access to land tenure rights through collaborative efforts with local people and municipal authorities.
  • To support income-generation activities, and community-managed savings and credit schemes that enable households to secure funds for the improvement of physical facilities.
  • Sharing of experiences, and the adoption of more pro-poor policies and practices for slum upgrading and land tenure at local and national levels

Faridpur, central Bangladesh

Faridpur is an old town which lies in central Bangladesh around three hours from Dhaka on the western side of the great Padma River. There are 22 slums here which are home to 9,000 people who lack secure tenure, have poor housing, inadequate water supplies and sanitation as well as no effective waste collection system.

Practical Action managed a project titled ‘Integrated Approaches to Improving the Urban Development (IUD) in Asia’. The three-year project was funded by the EC and implemented in a total of eight slum areas of Faridpur.

The project focused on two main principles. The provision of a set of services to improve the environment and linking this with income generation for families through training women in the production of saleable items such as paper bags as well as dress making and embroidery. The income generated from these small businesses allows the communities to pay for the services they receive in regular affordable instalments, allowing them to manage and maintain the services to enable them to lift themselves out of poverty and sustain the services for future generations.

In Faridpur’s slums where only 20% of residents have access to a latrine and 29% of families collect water from polluted rivers or ponds, Practical Action has introduced 80 cluster latrines which has dramatically reduced diarrhoeal diseases caused by poor sanitation. In addition, the safety of women and children has been improved by enabling them to use the facilities during the day rather than waiting until nightfall as they would have had to do previously, risking rape or harassment on their way in the dark. The charity has also built simple filter systems to remove arsenic and iron from the water supply and establishes waster collection, recycling and home-composting systems.

Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated countries in the world with the urban population tipped to reach 68 million by 2015 putting tremendous pressure on employment, income and basic amenities meaning that urban poverty alleviation programmes such as those carried out by Practical Action need to be stepped up urgently.

You can download  technical briefs and manuals on construction at Practical Answers, the technical information service of Practical Action, or you can submit an enquiry to the Practical Action staff via the online form

Sustainable Slum Upgrading

The brief outlines some recommendations that slum upgrading practitioners should consider when aspiring for sustainability in their work.

Urban Participatory Planning

This brief looks at some of the issues of participatory planning in general and what differences might be found between urban participatory planning and rural participatory planning.

Participatory Urban Planning Toolkit base on the Kitale Experience

This toolkit is based on work that took place in the town of Kitale, Kenya between 2001 and 2008, based on a sequence of projects funded by DFID, the Rausing Trust and Comic Relief., This toolkit provides a step-by-step guide to the main processes necessary in developing community action plans in low-income and slum communities. It also gives an account of how these processes were used in the town of Kitale, Kenya. It is distills the long-standing experience of Practical Action staff and their partners working in mobilising poor urban communities and creating long-lasting partnerships with Local Authorities.

International exchanges between slum communities: the SDI experience

The role of national and international exchanges of information in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya.

Urban poverty - a changing environment

A four-page overview of Practical Action's work with urban communities in Bangladesh, Kenya, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Zimbabwe, helping families find solutions to the problems arising from the environment in which they live.

Promoting Examples Of Participatory Local Empowerment in Urban Planning (PEOPLE-UP) baseline report

The project seeks to improve the living conditions of poor and marginalised urban and peri-urban residents in Zimbabwe by accessing and sustaining basic municipal and infrastructure services.

PCR Tool 01 People-centred Reconstruction: An Introduction

These people-centred reconstruction toolkits provide information on how poor people in urban and rural locations can come together to re-build their lives after a disaster.

no comments