Economy, Business And Markets

Informal Settlements Pose Challenges

Informal Settlements Pose ChallengesInformal Settlements Pose Challenges

Eleven million people live in informal settlements across Iranian metropolises, says a board member of the Urban Development and Revitalization Organization (UDRO), affiliated to the Ministry of Roads and Urban Development.

“Most people believe that informal settlements are in the outlying areas, but according to a recent survey of 91 cities, 87% of the shanties are located within cities. Over 80% of the informal settlements are more than 20 years old,” Majid Roosta was quoted by Tejarat-e Farda weekly as saying.

“There’s no denying that in Iran squatter towns usually emerge and expand in and around cities with a population of over 50,000.” 

According to the United Nations Human Settlements Program, UN-Habitat, informal settlements and slums are caused by a range of interrelated factors, including population growth and rural-urban migration, lack of affordable housing for the urban poor, bad governance (particularly in the areas of policy, planning, land and urban management leading to land speculation and grabbing), economic vulnerability and underpaid work, discrimination and marginalization, and displacement caused by conflict, natural disasters and climate change.

In Iran, a combination of all these factors plus draught, growing joblessness and the search for greener pastures have rendered thousands of villages and towns literally uninhabitable as young men flood into the big cities.

Compared to other urban dwellers, people living in informal settlements, particularly in slums, suffer more spatial, social and economic exclusion from the benefits and opportunities of the broader urban environment.

 Extreme Disadvantages

They experience discrimination and an extreme disadvantage characterized by geographical marginalization, basic service deficits, poor governance frameworks, limited access to land and property, precarious livelihoods and, due to their location, high vulnerability to the adverse impacts of poor and exposed environments, climate change and natural disasters.

Iranian informal settlements have grown monstrously as a result of the large and growing influx of rural folks to the cities in search of better livelihoods. Centralization of facilities and services, particularly in the capital and other metropolises, has led to large-scale urbanization and in turn the growth of spontaneous settlements only to make a bad situation worse.

A paper submitted to the International Conference on Urban Economy held recently by Iran Urban Economics Scientific Association suggests the population of major metropolises in Iran exceeds the optimum level by considerably wide margins. According to the study, more than 70% of the population in Tehran, 68% in Isfahan, 69% in Mashhad, 56% in Shiraz, and 67% in Ahvaz are in excess of what is deemed “the optimum size”, i.e. the capacity that can provide citizens with favorable living standards.

The population of the five aforementioned Iranian cities were estimated at 8 million, 1.7 million, 2.6 million, 1.4 million and 1 million for Tehran, Isfahan, Mashhad, Shiraz and Ahvaz respectively.