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Urban Squatters and Slums
Field Observation:
Squatter settlement development

Based information collected during a survey of squatter settlements in Bangalore, India, and Bangkok, Thailand, it was apparent that there were two processes that influenced the formation and development of a settlement: the "organic" and "induced" processes.

1. The Organic Process

The organic process of settlement development refers to forces and pressures that are initiated from within the settlement and squatter. They are evolved naturally, without any outside intervention and using internal resources of the household or settlement for development, such as own labour, locally available building materials etc.

The process commences with the "appropriation" of land by the migrant low-income family. Land ownership may rest with the government or private parties. Sometimes, in the case of private land owners, the land may be rented for a nominal amount.

The process of actual squatting does not have an "end" as such. Not only are houses built and upgraded piece by piece over time, but new houses are built in adjoining open areas. Thus, credit is mobilized and a material is purchased, or a building component is repaired and upgraded. The proof of this process is in the existence of consolidated, mixed and non-consolidated areas in a settlement. Those areas close to a main thoroughfare or commercial areas generally develop first. Gradually as time passes, the houses in the old areas (the consolidated ones) are upgraded and new houses (mixed and non-consolidated ones) come up in areas further beyond the main thoroughfare.

2. The Induced Process

The induced process of development essentially refers to "inducement" set up by agencies and organizations that are external to the settlement. Operating with objectives and goals on a larger and city-wide scale, they initiate programmes for the overall development of the entire city or a particular aspect, such as health or education.

The inducement can come from two sources:

  1. From the government, through the local/city government and other agencies or departments. Official inducement can be through programmes and projects, logal/legislative provisions, financial and other supports, etc.
  2. From the private sector, through N.G.O.s and other voluntary groups. Here, inducement can be in the form of community development, training and workshops, education etc. and may also include financial inputs.

The link between organic and induced processes develops as a result of three probable causes:

  1. A crisis may occur, for natural, political, or other reasons, which would necessitate outside intervention from the government or private organizations.
  2. An active people's organization from within the settlement may bring in pressure to deliver services and facilities for their settlement.
  3. An active N.G.O. may initiate settlement improvement and other development programmes within a settlement as a part of it's own outreach.

The ability of the residents to mobilize resources from within the settlement as well as from outside in terms of "people's resources" is a critical aspect which needs to be utilized in any settlement development programme.

Field observations in Bangalore, India and Bangkok, Thailand, from 1990 to 1993.
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