What Slums Can Teach Us About Sustainability

. A low-income area being razed in Istanbul.

In the name of redevelopment, many low-income neighborhoods in Istanbul are being torn down, and the residents relocated to high-rise sites (apartment blocks) on the outskirts of the city. But rather than standing in the way of progress, as those wanting to "clean them up" often claim, these so-called slums could be a model for the future -- at least according to controversial comments made by Prince Charles last week.

Visiting Dharavi, Mumbai, the crowded shanty-town setting for the hit movie Slumdog Millionaire, the prince said that the area

contains the attributes for environmentally and socially sustainable settlements for the world's increasingly urban population.... The district's use of local materials, its walkable neighbourhoods, and mix of employment and housing add up to "an underlying intuitive grammar of design that is totally absent from the faceless slab blocks that are still being built around the world to 'warehouse' the poor."

Real-Estate Investors Displacing Poor In Istanbul
The latter approach is the one Istanbul officials have generally taken thus far. The plight of Sulukule, a 1,000-year-old Roma (or "gypsy") neighborhood -- likely the world's oldest of its kind -- has gotten the most attention. The tight-knit community of 5,000 is being relocated to make room for a government-financed development of "Ottoman-style" villas that current residents will be allowed to buy for between $114,000 and $130,000 -- a near fortune to people who make on average $320 a month.

But Sulukule's story is repeating itself throughout Istanbul, with the Tarlabaşı neighborhood next to be redeveloped and real-estate investors buying out poor homeowners to build skyscrapers in other low-income areas.

Slum Communities Have 'Built-In Resilience'
With urban populations soaring around the world, of course efforts need to be made to ensure that people have safe, healthy living conditions. But simply destroying slum areas is not usually in the residents' best interests -- nor, it seems, in the world's as a whole.

"I strongly believe that the west has much to learn from societies and places which, while sometimes poorer in material terms are infinitely richer in the ways in which they live and organise themselves as communities," Prince Charles said. "It may be the case that in a few years' time such communities will be perceived as best equipped to face the challenges that confront us because they have a built-in resilience and genuinely durable ways of living." Via: "Charles declares Mumbai shanty town model for the world," The Guardian

More On Prince Charles' Environmental Projects
Prince Charles Thinks Financial Ecosystems Markets Best Bet to Stop Deforestation
Prince Charles Runs His Aston Martin on White Wine
A Visit to Prince Charles' Highgrove Garden
Back Alleys Fit for a Prince: Charles Crusades For Beijing's Hutong
Prince Charles Saves Britain's Apples
A Very Royal and Green Life

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