Unofficial Settlements Here to Stay!

Plans have been developed to improve living conditions in informal settlements in the 91 cities over a 10-year period.
Plans have been developed to improve living conditions in informal settlements in the 91 cities over a 10-year period.

The rapid growth of informal settlements in fringe areas of the bigger Iranian cities and sharp increase in the number of people living in unofficial settlements has prompted the authorities to take measures to provide some important services so as to keep in check social and health damages associated with the phenomenon.

The settlements flout and defy official urban development programs, and are deprived of many facilities like drinking water, adequate gas and electricity supply as well as schools and health centers, Borna news reported.

A review of informal settlements' upgrading policies across the world shows that governments have moved away from eradication policies to provision, enabling and participatory policies. "The shift was motivated by the recognition that informal settlements were not a problem but a solution stimulated by the society when the formal housing markets cannot fulfill its demand," says a recent study published in Science Direct Engineering Journal.

In Iran, the government has plans to provide basic urban facilities to unofficial settlements in the fringe areas of 91 cities.  

Gholam Ali Jafarzadeh Imenabadi, a member of the Majlis Plan and Budget Commission, said $57.8 million (2,200 billion rials) has been considered for this purpose in a bill proposed by lawmakers.

The proposal was passed recently by parliament and the amount has been approved for extending urban facilities to informal settlements in the upcoming fiscal year (starts March 21), pending final approval by the Guardian Council.

Under the five-year economic development plan (2016-2021) upgrading and empowerment of 270 informal settlements has been envisaged.

Last September, the Ministry of Roads and Urban Development said plans to improve living conditions in informal settlements in the 91 cities over a 10-year period have been developed.

So far, some preliminary measures have been taken in provinces of Kordestan, Kermanshah, Zahedan and Bandar Abbas. According to the ministry, the settlements will not be relocated except for those located in risky areas like near rivers or electricity pylons.

Earlier, deputy minister of roads and urban development Mohammad Saeed Izadi, had said there are plans to improve shanty areas by providing better housing and health facilities, and increasing educational and green spaces.

“But we also have to keep in mind that only the minimum standards of urban services should be provided to people living in informal settlements so as not to encourage others to move into those areas. We certainly don’t want to encourage more people to live in unofficial settlements," he added.

Currently, 11 million people live in 2,800 informal settlements spread across 77,000 hectares in the 91 cities. Urban experts say "imbalances" in the province-wise budgetary allocations have encouraged rural-urban migration and the problems of outlying areas cannot be resolved so long as funding is not balanced.


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