More than half of the world’s population now live in urban areas, and this is set to increase as a result of growth in developing countries. This is one of the greatest transformations of the 21st century.
Urbanization certainly brings opportunities. No country has achieved middle-income status without urbanizing. Nigeria is not left out as she has been experiencing an accelerated shift of her population from rural to urban areas.
Hence, to make the most of this phenomenon, infrastructures such as housing, transport, hospitals, schools and public spaces must be put in place and maintained so as to forestall problems caused by the rapid rate of urbanization.
It is important to note that without adequate services to match demand, the rapid increase of urban populations will pose new challenges, especially in terms of poor housing, insecure tenure, low productivity, crime rate, poverty, juvenile delinquency and inequalities in access to utilities.
Efforts to improve the living conditions of slum dwellers (especially within developing countries) have been feeble and incoherent over the last few decades. In fact,during the 1980s, over one billion people currently live in slum and squatter settlements. This is approximately, a third of the world’s urban population. It is projected that this could increase to 3 billion by 2050.
It is, therefore, timely to review the existing challenges of families with a view to improving their living conditions in slum settlements.
However, this research tries to isolate a particular case study of inner-urban squatting in a developing economy. This is found in the coal city, Enugu, the capital city of Enugu State, Nigeria.
Prevalence of Squatting in Abakpa-Nike, Enugu State
The nature and form of these squatting in Abakpa-Nike and its environs has elicited interest in urban researchers due to its persistency despite several governmental efforts for its renewal.
This study arose out of the need to draw attention to core city in a developing economy. It is being suggested that there would be poor cohesive connectivity between land use activities in the city since the center is acting as a disruption especially for transportation.
This paper therefore, has attempted to examine the causes and reasons for the rise and emergence of these slum and squatter settlements. It also went further to evaluate the challenges of families living in these slum and squatter settlements.
The Nature of Slum Settlements
Slums sprout and continue for a combination of demographic, social, economic, and political reasons. The common causes include rural-urban migration, high rate of urbanization, poor housing planning, colonialism and segregation, informal economy.
Slums generally develop as a result of a combination of rapid urban population growth, lack of affordable housing and poor governance. In some cases the pace of urbanization outstrips governments’ capacity to provide the framework for affordable housing (e.g. land, infrastructure, access to utilities) for an increasing population.
Furthermore, urban growth often occurs in peri-urban areas, which sometimes lie beyond administrative boundaries and are neglected by both urban and rural administrators. In other cases, governments are unwilling to act as they believe that providing services and better conditions to the poor will attract more people and cause slums to grow further.
Why Slum Settlements is a Persistent Problem in Abakpa-Nike, Enugu
As implied earlier, slums actually grow as they remain subserviced for long periods of time. In many of the studied cities, considerable political and institutional inertia allowed slums to expand to levels where their sheer magnitude overwhelmed the capacity of existing institutional arrangements to effectively address the issues.This inertia, perhaps, even overtook any political desirabilityfor intervention.
Wherever and whenever formal urban interventions took place to address issues such as urban degeneration, explosive growth of informal housing, orillegal urban land occupancy, all too often such interventions were ad hoc, marginal and insignificant in relation to the scale and scope of the issues at hand.
The nature of such interventions appear to indicate that the phenomenon of slums and the related problems are generally not understood. This is the reason why public interventions, more often than not, address symptoms rather than the underlying causes.
The number of cities that consider squatting, slum and informal housing developments as a highly undesirable and temporary phenomenon to be dealt with through various window-dressing exercises, rather than addressing core issues of urban poverty, is perhaps indicative of the general lack of understanding of the forces, trends and conditions that are causing the rapid growth of informal urbanization.
The world is faced with the reality that many large-and medium-sized cities are increasingly becoming areas of impoverished urban exclusion, surrounding comparatively small pockets of urban wealth. Frequently, this trend is the spatial outcome of mismatches and disconnections between national macro-policies and the absence of coherent connections with the policies at the city level.
With the rise of the city as the predominant and preferred residential locus of the majority of the world population, the spatial translation of such policy disconnections is iqncreasingly becoming visible and problematic through urban processes such as counter-urbanization, urban fragmentation, societal stratification, segregation and the explosive growth ofinformal forms of urban development beyond the control ofcity authorities.
Any attempt to address the issues by merely fighting their spatial symptoms is a futile exercise that, at best, will give some temporary relief in small locations, andwhich, at worst, will lead to economic, social and political instability. Rather, the core issue of current policy mismatches, both at the local and between the national and the urban levels, should be addressed if any tangible impact is to be expected in terms of urban poverty alleviation and the general improvement of the living conditions in areas classified as slums. This is also a requisite to improving the general livability of our cities.
Planning Implications of Slum Settlements
Issues such as lack of employment opportunities, inadequate financial resources, spreading homelessness and expansion of squatter settlements, inadequate educational facilities, improper land use, insecure land tenure, rising traffic congestion, increasing pollution, lack of green spaces, inadequate water supply and sanitation, uncoordinated urban development and an increasing vulnerability to disaster; have seriously challenged the town planning development in Abakpa-Nike.
The capacity of government to at all levels to realize socio-economic development and environmental protection, which is all components of development, is also challenged.
By implication, the cost of restoring the study area to a habitable and functional environment through various processes such as renewal, re-development, revitalization, etc, would be very costly and may not be economically viable.
This study dealt with the challenges of families in slum and squatter settlements in Abakpa-Nike area of Enugu State. In the study, it was observed that the challenges included; high crime rate, denudation, overcrowding, etc and the effects of these challenges are wide-spread in the study area. The inhabitants lack cooperation and zeal in solving the problem facing them and the wide-spread impact.
This report concludes, therefore, that proper development plan with emphasis on mass housing and low income houses has been chosen as the development approach to be adopted.
This will help in transforming the socio-economic and living conditions of families living in the study area. In a nutshell, the study area could be rid of all its problems and become economically viable which will improve the living standards of families if proper planning could be adopted as development strategy of the study area.
- The development programs should be genuinely set and governments should be involved in its implementation for improved standard of living.
- There is need to articulate all the urban development plans and come out with a more viable and formidable program which will provide for the low income earners and reduce the challenges families face.
- The Government at all levels in conjunction with families living in the study area should lay down rules that will guide the provision, use and maintenance of physical infrastructure so as to improve living stan
- There should be proper dissemination of information and enlightenment to enable the inhabitants know the importance of self –help programs so as to improve their living and environmental conditions
This is a sponsored post by Errandboy Environmental Services.
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