Indore's Habitat Improvement Project: success or failure?

  • Verma G
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The largest slum upgrading effort so far in Indore - a million plus city
in central India - and one of the largest in India was implemented
during 1990-97. This was the Indore Habitat Improvement Project, which
was funded by the British Government's Department for International
Development (DfID, formerly the Overseas Development Administration, or
ODA). The project used the highly acclaimed concept of Slum Networking
as the approach to infrastructure provision alongside health and
community development inputs. In 1993, Indore's slum project was visited
by the British Prime Minister. In 1994 it was honoured with the 1993
World Habitat Award. In 1995 it was visited by an international study
group. In 1996 it was included as an example of Global Best Practices at
the Habitat II Conference. In 1997 the project ended. In 1998 it was
honoured with the Aga Khan Award for Architecture.
Obviously this was a spectacularly successful improvement project, or
was it? In 1997, the DfID funded an impact assessment study of its
city-wide slum upgrading projects for which its projects in three
cities, including Indore, were taken up. The author of this paper was
responsible for a substantive part of the in-slum assessment as a senior
consultant. The findings of this assessment in Indore (based on a survey
of nearly 600 families in 10 slums and focussed surveys on particular
project components in 7 additional slums) were at considerable variance
from what is projected in professional circles about the project. In
1998, OXFAM conducted a study on urban poverty in a number of cities in
India, including Indore. The findings of this study also did not suggest
the existence of a substantive and highly successful slum upgrading
intervention in the city.
This paper begins by describing two different views of this project. The
first is the `on paper' view. This is the one that most professionals
working in the field of urban slum interventions and following
award-winning projects already know and this view is described only
briefly. The second is the `on the ground' view. This is the one that
all those who live in, work in or walk through slums in Indore know. It
is introduced in the form of the findings that emerged from the impact
study conducted in 1997. The difference between these two snapshot views
of Indore's slum project are then explained in terms of some inferences
on flawed and failed assumptions.
The paper then tries to piece together the processes involved in
Indore's slum project. Since the assumption is that the projected
picture is not the real picture, the stated processes tin project
intentions or in monitoring reports) could not have been the source for
this part of the paper and are not referred to. Instead, here the paper
draws on less professional sources of information - archives of the
local print media. The project history so pieced together makes rather
interesting reading. It also affords a clearer insight into why the two
snapshots described earlier continue to co-exist. Unfortunately, it
shows the urban slum related professions in extremely poor light.
Finally in this paper some comments are made on inadvertent, but
nevertheless worrying, wider impacts that have been triggered off by the
process of Indore's slum project. These affect not only the people in
the project slums but also institutions within as well as outside
Indore. Since the processes that have occurred in the Indore slum
project are unlikely to be unique, it is suspected that these impacts
are quite common in a project of this type. Thus the paper will explore
what seems to be a barely acknowledged dimension slum interventions. (C)
2000 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

Author-supplied keywords

  • slum upgrading; slum networking; international awa

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  • G D Verma

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