Problems and solutions: less developed countries

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Problems and solutions: less developed countries

The developing world cities are suffering many very serious problems. These are a consequence of the rapid population growth, a lack of capital to invest and a non-existent, very poor and/or outdated infrastructure.

1. Collapsing infrastructure. Many cities in the developing world do not have an infrastructure that is capable of dealing with the massive increases in population. In addition, the governments do not have sufficient funds available to maintain the facilities, let alone improve them. Particular problems arise because of the inadequacy of the road and sewerage networks - see next point.

2. Increasing levels of pollution. Pollution of air, land and water is a major problem in most developing world cities. The drive to industrialisation brings with it inevitable problems, especially as legislation to protect the environment is often non-existent or rarely enforced. Furthermore, the hidden economy can add to the levels of pollution as small, unlicensed industries are set up in peoples homes or on rooftops. These industries release their pollutants into the air, land and water.

3. Increased volume of traffic on poorly maintained roads. The water supply can also become polluted as inadequate sewerage facilities allow the spread of harmful bacteria. Indeed, death from water-borne disease is one of the biggest causes of high infant mortality rates.

4. Inadequate housing and services. Shanty towns display most problems typical of developing world cities. On arrival at the city, it is most likely that the migrant will find him having to create his own shelter, live on the streets or rent a single room. In Calcutta, "Hotbed Hotels" rent rooms on an eight hour basis, whilst in Mexico City, over ten million live in shanty towns.

Shanty towns

5. The shanty town is likely to be found on inappropriate land. Maybe it is prone to flooding or is very steeply sloping, increasing the chances of a landslip. It could be on a piece of land that has been badly polluted by a neighbouring industry. The shelters made of wood and high population densities increase the risk of fire.

6. The services will be non-existent or incapable of maintaining a basic standard of living. The lack of basic services like a clean water supply, rubbish collection and sewerage disposal mean that the risks of disease are very high.

7. A lack of employment means that people have to look for other ways of earning money. In Manila, children scavenge on refuse sites collecting cans for recycling. As well as being unpleasant, the risk of injury is high and any cuts will become infected. Hospital waste is also dumped on the site with hypodermic needles adding to the dangers of serious infection.

Drugs have also taken a grip in many shanty towns. In Rio's favellas, there are often gun battles between rival gangs.

Children in refuse site

Solutions to any problem are made more difficult by the lack of available resources and the sheer scale of the problems faced. Below are some examples of different policies attempted:

Attempts to solve housing problems:

1. Site and service schemes: Popular in India and Brazil. This is a scheme whereby the government will provide a site (a small concrete 'hut') and basic amenities such as water and sewer facilities. The migrant is given rights of ownership and then expected to complete the work at his or her expense. This is often done as a cooperative between groups of migrants. In other situations, the authorities just provide the plot and building materials for the migrants to construct their own homes.

These schemes are relatively cheap and give the migrants a sense of control over their future. They also encourage community spirit.

2. Rehabilitation: An alternative to this scheme is to provide the residents of shanty towns with the materials to improve their existing shelters. Residents are also encouraged to set up community schemes to improve education and medical services. Residents may also be given rights of ownership whilst local authorities come in and provide electricity, water and sewerage disposal. This has been tried in Bolivia and Pakistan.

It is a cheaper option than the site and service schemes but simply hides the real problems. The germs may not have been removed, the land still unsuitable and the water/sewer system still not adequate.

3. Housing developments: Some countries,such as Singapore, have embarked upon massive re-housing programmes, resultingin high-rise estates.

Large areas of shanty towns were cleared, tower blocks built and the shanty town residents re-housed.

Singapore housing

Early apartment blocks were very similar to those found in the UK and faced many similar problems. One such problem was people using the lifts as toilets - this was stopped when lifts were made sensitive to urine and locked on the offenders. They then had to wait to be released, facing much embarrassment and a very heavy fine! Today, blocks are designed by architects and have management teams that keep them graffiti and litter free. This is helped by the strict rules enforced in Singapore, where dropping litter or selling chewing gum will result in a very heavy fine.

Each housing development is designed to be self sufficient, with shops and services and employment in light industry, such as clothing. They are also located close to Singapore's highly efficient rail system - the MRT or Mass Rapid Transport. This helps reduce traffic congestion, which is further reduced by strict quotas on the number of licensed cars and regular tolls on all major roads.

The housing and development board aims to provide every person with a home and has continued its building programme for the last 40 years.

4. Sewage rehabilitation: Several cities have taken on major projects to try and repair damaged water and sewerage pipes. This improves the safety and quality of the water in the city and would reduce mortality rates. The rehabilitation also goes some way to reducing the unemployment problems.