Wednesday, May 14, 2014
But not exactly poor: 2 million live in slums
POVERTY in slum settlements cannot be simply overcome through traditional poverty reduction programs such as cash transfers.
The Philippine government should take regulatory actions that cut cross administrative boundaries, as environmental issues cannot be isolated by geographical and political boundaries, Dr. Marife Ballesteros argued in a book published this month by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
ADB noted that while Southeast and East Asia regions have made major progress in reducing income poverty, living standards for many poor people remain a major challenge due to worsening environmental degradation and increasing vulnerability to climate change.
“Environments of the Poor” was the theme of a conference which the ADB and some 17 development partners organized on 24–26 November 2010 in New Delhi. The papers on Southeast Asia, East Asia, and the Pacific at this conference were revised and edited for this publication.
In her paper Slum Poverty in the Philippines: Can the Environment Agenda Drive Public Action?, Dr. Ballesteros described the demographics of Metro Manila which is home to about 2 million slum dwellers or about 16 percent of its population (11.5 million) in 2010.
Dr. Ballesteros writes: Households in slums are not necessarily income poor ... More than 50% live above the poverty line and can spend between US$2 and US$4 per day, but reside in poor environments. The slum-dwellers who live above the poverty line usually make minimum salaries or wages and work casually. They continue living in the slums because there is no alternative shelter in the city and “they cannot afford the cost of travelling from distant, less expensive, peri-urban regions for work and income earning opportunities in urban centers.”
She added that at the same time, not all the poor live in slums. Some are scattered around the city in areas with similar physical environments as the slums — a deficit of infrastructure and an insecurity of tenure.
The study was mainly based on interviews in four slum areas in Metro Manila, and enriched with some secondary statistics.
It also highlighted the following: environment of the slums and how it causes poverty; higher expenditure on basic services; higher health risk from urban environment and climate change; damage to social fabric and mental well-being; damage to lives and property of slum poor.
Dr. Ballesteros concludes: Unfortunately, these problems do not motivate the government to act since the government does not look at shelter deprivation as part of urban poverty caused by the environment. Shelter deprivation is mainly perceived as income poverty. Thus, government programs on shelter are mostly directed to improving affordability of individual households. Less attention is given to settlement planning and infrastructure development. The threat to settlements brought about by climate change are mainly translated into activities and strategies for disaster response rather than effective prevention.
The solution to slum poverty thus involves giving adequate attention to town planning to ensure appropriate land use planning and proper implementation of building codes and environmental laws. The provision of space for housing low-income families and the expansion of urban infrastructure to underserved, informal settlements should be an integral component of town planning.
News Report: http://www.malaya.com.ph/business-news/business/not-exactly-poor-2m-live-slums
Photo by John Francis Lagman: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jlagman17/514430524