Sunday, August 28, 2011

Slumdog. No Millionaire.

It comes as no surprise that the capital cities of developing countries tend to be the most densely populated areas of those countries. Globalization is forcing developing countries across the world to undergo their own industrial and technological revolutions in a New York minute,ready or not. Along with revolution comes migration,typically in the way of rural populations moving to the capital city in search of work.Manila,however, stands out from her sister DCs (developing countries), not for being the most densely populated city in the world (111,576 people per mi²) but for having more than 50% of its metropolitan population living in slums.

Manilans are in great danger as population continues to grow and rural communities continue to migrate into the city in search of a meager $2 per day. NGOs worldwide have taken an interest in reducing the slum population, but I cant help but feel repulsed by the Filipino government's passive aggressive approach. Following a steady population growth rate in the late 1990s, a sudden jump in the year 2000 caused great concern when it became obvious that the capital city would be unable to handle the influx of rural migrants. As of 2002, the federal government began encouraging these rural dwellers to return to the countryside in order to alleviate the growth of slums in Manila. According to a report by BBC's Paul Mason, the slumdwellers made it clear that they were unwilling to return to their commerce-starved village centres and depleted rivers and land. Nevertheless, the government has been building homes in rural towns such as Cabuyao and relocating indignant slumdwellers there, to non-electrified, sparsely populated, commercially stagnant communities.The fact that the government is relocating slumdwellers to the exact stale communities they escaped  seems to be of no importance.

Undoubtedly,the living conditions are better than those in the slums,where collapse,arson and flooding are a constant concern due to the poor construction of the dwellings. Even more so in the past few years, with slumdwellers claiming occurrences of mysterious fires following refusal to relocate to the countryside. The government denies any accusations of foul play pointed at it and states that although it is using police forces to enforce the relocation, it has not resorted to arson. Nevertheless, suspicious fires which leave hundreds homeless, sourced to 'faulty electrical wires' have become common in the slum of Tondo in manila,among others. With aggressive relocation to communities with stagnant economies and a passive[read: nonexistent} approach to providing incentives to the slumdwellers, the government is literally putting its citizens between a rock and a hard place.

urban upgrading success stories

I'm all for relieving the slum populace, but ideally, the government would provide agricultural subsidies if indeed the agricultural sector grew by 5.8% in the first half of 2011 as stated by the Philippines Bureau of Agricultural Statistics. Additionally, the government could also try to provide or source small-business incentives with micro-credit programs. The more ambitious architects and developmental economists are pursuing variations of urban upgrading , a term coined by MIT to describe the improvement of slums to bring them up to living standards. Urban upgrading aims to add the necessary infrastructure to slums in an effort to avoid forced relocation of slumdwellers to rural communities.

The best solution is likely a combination of both urban upgrading and incentive-driven voluntary relocation outside the over-populated capital, as globalization has a well-earned reputation of producing more slumdogs than millionaires.

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