Most of the slums have no legal connection of water supply and there is also lack of healthy sanitation system. Two third slums have no sewerage system.
Dhaka's population is increasing rapidly. For that the capital city of Bangladesh is facing huge pressure of a vast population, growth of slums, traffic jam, air pollution, lack of good governance, lack of security and unplanned sanitation system.
On the other hand, the megacity has to face extra pressure of 22 lakhs people by 2020/this year, making for larger cities with greater population density than ever before.
Lack of pure drinking water supply and proper sewerage system pose the major threats to the health of most residents in the city.
Most of the slums have no legal connection of water supply and there is also lack of healthy sanitation system. The slums are controlled by mafia and other influential quarters. Two third slums have no sewerage system. Wastages are directly being poured into rivers and other waterbodies. As a result, water pollution is increasing gradually. Every year around 50,000 children in the slums are being infected with cholera, diarrhea, typhoid and other water-borne diseases.
At present, one third population of Bangladesh (around five crores) are living in country's different suburbs, towns, metropolitan areas and mega-cities. And one-third of urban residents are slum dwellers and floating population.
People from all over the country are moving to suburbs, towns and cities, especially Dhaka, for their livelihood facing some difficulties including social exploitation, natural disasters (draught, flood, river erosion, cyclone and water logging), climate change, reduction of agricultural production, lack of employment opportunities.
As most of the investment, development initiatives, service providing organizations are town-centric due to absence of planned urbanization, the employment opportunities are also town centric. For these reasons, people who lost their houses are forced to live in different slums, makeshift shanties and under open skies in cities and towns for the sake of their livelihood.
Though they are citizen of Bangladesh, a mentionable number of country's population are deprived of various facilities, including voting rights. Not only that their different biological and human issues are very temporary and in risky state. So, they lead their lives in an uncertain state amid panic. There are various facilities for country's poor people. But poor, disadvantaged, and vulnerable city dwellers often deprived of affordable and adequate housing as well as other public services such as water and sanitation.
Slum and people dwelling there are increasing gradually. Especially in the Dhakka Metropolitan, 2.76 lakh were slum dwellers in 1975 while the number stood at 34-lakh in 2005 and at present, the number reaches at 40 lakhs.
There are two types of slums in cities. One type is private-owned slums and another one is the slums which were built by illegal occupiers on the unused lands of different government organizations. The second one become victim of all kind of eviction drives conducted in slums. Eviction drives in slums are conducted every year. But the High Court has passed an order that slums would not be evicted without rehabilitation.
Slum dwellers are the driving force of the cities. The 40-lakh slum people have huge contribution in city life and national economy through their daily activities. They are involved in different professions, including construction, garments, industry, transportation, house help, waste management, rickshaw pulling and as bus staffers.
Do the slum dwellers not have rights to housing? The Constitution of Bangladesh mentions 'adequate housing for all and sustainable housing for human'. The article 123 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights also stated that a safe and healthy habitat and adequate have to be set up for homeless urban poor and people dwelling in slums.
Vancouver Declaration on Human Settlements, 1976: Vancouver Declaration, adopted by the United Nations Conference on Human stated that "right to adequate housing as a basic human right".
Quito Declaration 2016
In the Quito Declaration on Sustainable Cities and Human Settlements for All (Quito Declaration) -- at the end of the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) held in Quito, Ecuador from 17 to 20 October 2016. The New Urban Agenda should be guided by interlinked principles such as Leave no one behind Cities and human settlements should also have "a safe healthy, inclusive, and secure environment" for all those who live, work and participate in urban life.
SDG: The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), also known as the Global Goals, were adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015 as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030. Among those, SDG Goal 11: Sustainable cities and communities is one of the key goals. The first one among the 10 targets set under the 'SDG Goal 11' is 'By 2030, ensure access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services and upgrade slums.'
Light of hope
Civil society, human rights organisations have already stood beside the slum people. Local and international organisations have been continuing their activities on water, sanitation and hygiene in slums. It is notable that WASA has set up a water pump at Korail slum, the largest slum in the capital cit. its dwellers got water supply connection and effective initiatives have been taken to provide legal water supply connection. Government and private organisations are doing their jobs in coordination. Dushtha Shasthya Kendra (DSK) is leading other organizations in doing the activities in slums.
CBO (Communication-by-Objectives) approach
Community people have formed committees and been running their activities to set sanitation, water management, cleaning activities, hand washing through monthly meeting. Participation of women is playing vital role in the CBO approach. They form organization and make their respective constitution. They build up connection with different government organizations and do advocacy to settle down their problems. Community sanitation system are being arranged. Separate portions are being set for women, men, children and differently able persons. weekly meetings, yard meetings are being arranged for creating awareness for rights to housing and short films on hygiene are also being screened by an organization named 'Keya'. Now the state of slums has changed and women empowerment has increased there.
Some effective steps can play a positive role. Those are
- Immediate end of the eviction drives in slums without proper arrangement of rehabilitation. Prepare a land bank and make an arrangement to allot the lands among the landless people. Creation of a home loan fund for them.
- Safe drinking water, sanitation, and other basic facilities have to be ensured for urban poor and slum people through quick implementation of National Housing Policy 2012 (section 5,1,7). Keep an allotment in the National Budget for the development of slum people and made it public. Committee has to be formed in national and local level comprising of government organizations, NGOs concerned and CBO representatives for the development of slum dwellers and to ensure the housing.
In countries around the world, poor become poorer and rich people become richer. For example, in Bangladesh one in every four people live under poverty line. But this country ranked third in making rich people.
The valance policy of the society --'None will remain lag behind'-- will bring the light of hope among deprived people. the fog of discrimination to be removed, the income discrimination to be reduced and people lead lives with due dignity of the human being. As Rabindranath said: 'poschate rekhecho jare se tomare poschate taniche.' Meaning –those you leave behind will pull you back. Go ahead with all together. To prevent to city-bound flow of poor people there are necessary to land reform, balanced development, adaptation, industrialization in villages and realistic master plan.
Aslam Khan is the deputy-director of Dushtha Shasthya Kendra (DSK), Water Fast WASH Project.