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Inclusions and Exclusions

Inclusions and Exclusions Darshini Mahadevia This collection of 11 articles with an introductory chapter brings to the table the issues faced by the urban poor in the cities of developing Asia. This is a rare collection, though a number of books have either analysed the economic dynamics of emerging

Inclusions and Exclusions

Darshini Mahadevia

his collection of 11 articles with an introductory chapter brings to the table the issues faced by the urban poor in the cities of developing Asia. This is a rare collection, though a number of books have either analysed the economic dynamics of emerging “world cities” in

book review

The Inclusive City – Infrastructure and Public Services for the Urban Poor in Asia edited by Aprodicio A Laquian, Vinod Tewari and Lisa M Hanley;

Woodrow Wilson Centre Press, Washington DC and The John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 2007; pp xx+342, $ 50.

Asia or praised the rapid economic develop ment of Asia, the ensuing urbanisation and challenges therein. However, there is a realisation now that the Asian “urban authorities have found it difficult to integrate ...(the)...efforts of the urban poor into mainstream metropolitan water, sanitation, solid waste management and transport systems. Worse, in the adoption of infrastructure and urban services programmes, the real needs of the urban poor have been overlooked as urban authorities have focused on high prestige and high- technology options that are often beyond poor people’s capacity to pay” (pp xvii-xviii).

The book is an outcome of the “Urban Forum on Urban Infrastructure and Public Service Delivery for the Urban Poor, Regional Focus: Asia” held in New Delhi in 2004, by the Comparative Urban Studies Project of the Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars and National Institute of Urban Affairs, India. The articles in the book cover a wide range of urban issues regarding housing, water supply and sanitation, solid waste management, and interestingly, urban transit, from the perspective of the poor, and hence make interesting reading. I will raise the issues and concerns expressed by the author(s) of the individual chapters, which in a sense call for more research on the topic. This book also raises a few more issues for future research and brings on board more realistic perspectives about Asian urbanisation at a time when it is being mechanistically stated that the 21st century belongs to Asia!

Urban Poor

Aprodicio Laquian, in the chapter titled ‘Who Are the Poor, and How Are They Served in Asian Cities?’ raises some basic questions about cross-country comparisons. First, the definition of “urban” varies from country to country; the definition being based on legal or administrative statutes, population size and (or) density and (or) function of the settlement, and some other qualitative attributes. Hence, a sweeping comparison of cities across Asia could be a comparison of apples and oranges. So does the definition of “poverty” vary. However, it is not as much problematic as the definition of “urban” itself. Definitions of poverty are absolute or relative and with the increase in incomes that may change. The chapter gives definitions of urban poverty and urban in some of the Asian countries, which are useful for researchers working on urbanisation in Asia. It summarises the broad trends with regard to housing, water and sanitation, solid waste management and public transport in different Asian countries and access of the urban poor to these services.

Lastly, the author identifies four main factors that exert the most important influence on determining the access to infrastructure and urban services by the urban poor: (i) location of urban poor settlements in the urban area; (ii) legality of tenure of the urban poor over land and shelter; (iii) resources available to the urban poor that they need to survive in an urban setting; and (iv) planning and governance mechanisms (p 34). By implication, there cannot be generic policies for improving the access of the urban poor to urban infrastructure and services, something that international development agencies such as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) tend to prescribe. The subsequent chapters, which are either country studies or specific city studies, reiterate this perspective.

Infrastructure and Services

The running theme of each of the chapter, through national and city level statistics, is that the infrastructure and services generally do not reach the majority of the

urban poor in all the cities across developing Asia. The chapter ‘Improving Housing and Basic Services for the Urban Poor in India’ by Vinod Tewari, Usha Raghupati and Jamal Husain Ansari, is written positively and suggests that the solutions are possible. But they illustrate the fragmented nature of urban policy. India, in general, has a lackadaisical approach to increasing the urban poor’s access to housing and basic services. In fact, individual city studies in India by other authors indicate that it is possible to bring inclusiveness in urban planning if the city government had the power and the will to do so as in the states of Gujarat and Maharashtra. However, like other Asian cities, the aspiration to make “world class cities” has changed city level capabilities. The Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), on which the authors have pinned hopes, has now allocated 40 per cent of the funds to the schemes for the urban poor. However, critics have pointed out that without addressing the land tenure question, institutional development and democratisation of urban governance, merely allocating funds is not enough to make inclusive cities.

Urban Public Transit

The four articles on urban public transit are interesting and bring to the fore the fact that a very large proportion of trips in all the developing country cities are either by non-motorised mode (walking and bicycle) or public bus. Among the lowest income group, walking, bicycling and then public bus form the most important modes of urban transit, while for the highest income groups, public bus, car and

February 2, 2008 Economic & Political Weekly


two-wheelers form the most important transit modes. In Chinese cities, where there has been historical use of bicycles by both men and women for urban transit, and where in most cities bicycle lanes are present, the use of the bicycle is still very high. Madhav G Badami, Geetam Tiwari and Dinesh Mohan’s article ‘Access and Mobility for the Urban Poor in India’, argues that 62 per cent of all the trips in Delhi by mechanised modes are by public transit; about 42 per cent are by bus, 32 per cent by walking, about 5 per cent by cycling and 5 per cent by four-wheelers. Even then, the transport planning focuses mainly on infrastructure for personalised motorised transport. Even among the highest income group, about 38 per cent use public buses. The authors also argue that better road planning and improvement in existing public transit system of bus can provide a low cost solution for efficient, safe, reliable, comfortable, sustainable and a socially just solution to urban transport problems in Indian cities. They argue for dedicated high speed bus ways in the Indian cities and state that the high cost metro systems cannot meet the urban transit demand of vast majority of urban population in Indian cities for many years to come.

China: The article on Chinese cities by Zhong-Ren Peng and Yi Zhu, ‘Urban Transport in Chinese Cities: The Impact on the Urban Poor’, too argues that the modern transport infrastructure such as expressways, wide arterial roads and rapid transit systems such as metro rail, light rail and even meglev (in Shanghai), do not fulfil the needs of the urban poor in the Chinese cities like Beijing and Shanghai. In fact, the urban poor cannot afford these expensive systems. Most of the urban poor walk or bicycle and use public buses where fares are low. In Shanghai, about 60 per cent still walk or cycle. In Beijing, this proportion is 39 per cent, and in smaller cities a much higher proportion: in Nanjing, 67 per cent walk or use the bicycle. Urban poverty has emerged in Chinese cities with restructuring or closing down of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and an increased number of migrants. While the former employees of the SOEs continue to live in main city areas, often in their

Economic & Political Weekly February 2, 2008

former ‘danwei’ (work-unit) housing or public housing, the migrants live in suburban locales. City restructuring due to events such as Beijing Olympics 2008, or the World Expo in Shanghai in 2010, has caused large-scale displacements from the central parts of the cities and have shifted the affected residents to the suburbs.1 Many of them are former SOE employees who cannot afford modern public transit.

Hong Kong: The article on public transit in Hong Kong points out that the Mass Transit Railway (MTR) and Kowloon-Canton Railway (KCR) took care of 89 per cent of the transit needs of the city in the 1970s and 1980s. But, then, when the labour jobs moved to Pearl River Delta on the mainland China, the regional planning of Hong Kong with selfsufficient townships around the main city failed. The residents of the new towns have had to come to the city centre for jobs since the mid-1990s and this has raised a serious challenge with regard to the transit needs of the urban poor. This article indicates that there are many external factors that influence the urban poor’s transit needs in rapidly changing urban economies of Asia. This is particularly true when economic growth has led to the widening of income disparities not only in Hong Kong, but also across developing Asia [ADB 2007].

Pakistan: The last article on transport, ‘Balancing Efficiency and Equity in Public Transit in Pakistan’, by Murtaza Haider and Madhav G Badami, discusses the public transport options available in the Greater Islamabad-Rawalpindi Area (GIRA). One of the important shifts that took place in GIRA was the introduction of franchised transit in 2003 to overcome the inefficiency problems of the existing public transit system. In 1998, the provincial government that was running the public transit system shut down the publicly operated urban transit system and encouraged private paratransit modes. The new franchised bus system competed with the paratransit modes. The article shows that the franchised system was more efficient, and it benefited the middle income groups greatly, while the lower income groups were not able to afford its increased fares. The authors suggest that the gap between the affordable fare and the minimum fare for break-even should be closed by providing direct or indirect subsidies and that the public transit should focus on middle income groups, while the urban poor’s access needs should be addressed by appropriate housing strategies as well as ensuring that their access is not compromised by allowing their mobility with the non-motorised modes that they use.

Water and Waste Management

‘Solid Waste Management in Asian Cities: Implications for the Urban Poor’ by Virginia W Maclaren, Nazrul Islam and Salma A Shafi shows through a review of literature, how inadequate this service is in most Asian cities. It also points out that the urban poor, who play a vital role in managing wastes in the Asian cities themselves, do not receive these services as their areas are not covered. Many of the reported successful cases of solid waste management are focused on high or middle income neighbourhoods.

The experience of privatisation of water services in Djakarta Raya, Indonesia and Manila, Philippines are discussed in the article ‘The Privatisation of Water Services: Effects on the Urban Poor in Jakarta and Metro Manila’ by Teti Argo and Aprodicio A Laquian, and give details of the conditions, including the political ones, under which privatisation was undertaken. The article points out that there was an initial success in terms of increased supply of water, despite the troubled process of privatisation in both the countries. But, the evaluation done over a six-year period also brought out that the benefits were not equally distributed and the urban poor communities were left out. “In Jakarta, most of the kampung dwellers remained without piped water, … Conditions in some poor communities worsened because the privatisation forced them to close down artesian wells and other sources of water” (pp 241-42). In metro Manila, like in Jakarta, the private companies extended the water networks to the edge of the poor communities and then the families were asked to extend the network within the


community through private contractors or individually and thus bear the costs themselves. The consumer groups also argued that the private companies and even the public sector authority, Manila Water, have made false claims about the coverage. The authors conclude that privatisation in any way does not benefit and may exclude the urban poor, and its success depends on other factors such as size and scale of projects, management efficiency, political interference (as in the case of Jakarata, Suharto’s son was involved) and corruption. To this I would also add the issue of transparency of such deals, government regulations in ensuring equity and, in general, the power of the people to ensure a just system. In short, it depends on whether the state that carries out privatisation is a democratic develop mental state [Robinson and White 2002] or if it is an instrumental state [Przeworski 1990] that would assist the owners of capital to accumulate wealth by any means.

Community Participation

A feeble voice can be heard about the inclusiveness of urban development through community participation in the article ‘The Coordination of Infrastructure Services for the Urban Poor in Asia’ by Ellen Brennan-Galvin. It argues that community engagement in provision of urban basic services has delivered results to the poor. But it has taken a long time to induce this change from authoritarian, top-down urban governance styles to decentralised and participatory planning and programme implementation. The article cites many individual successful cases, such as the Orangi project in Karachi, the sanitation programme in Pune, and so on. The author thinks that more research needs to be done on learning how in some cities the respective local governments have been convinced to empower the urban poor through capacity-building and also on the experiences of the municipal governments in dealing with the urban poor. Basil van Horen has given a theory of ‘Community Upgrading and Institutional Capacity-Building for the Urban Poor in Asia’, which could form the basis of undertaking research agenda that Brennan-Galvin has put forward.

The most disturbing of all the articles is by K C Sivaramakrishnan, ‘Municipal and Metropolitan Governance: Are They Relevant to the Urban Poor’. By taking the example of India, he states that local governments have been relegated to the secondary position, particularly in India. The state governments that manage the urban poverty alleviation programmes have treated the subject as largesse from the government rather than their basic responsibility. Although India amended the Constitution in 1993 (through the 74th constitutional amendment) to increase the powers of the municipal government and has also developed structures below the city level for decentralised governance, namely the ward committees, the experience shows that there is still a long way to go in this field. Many state governments are delivering urban basic services through parastatals that are outside the ambit of the 74th Constitutional amendment. Besides the ward committees, other independent structures such as resident welfare associations (RWAs) have come up in some cities, albeit limitedly and not in the slum areas. The author only hopes that democracy would make the municipal governance people-friendly over time and if it does not, both the poor and the nonpoor would suffer the negative effects of the same.


All the chapters have many details about each of the cities or each country. They establish that multiple and more local solutions are required if the urban poor have to be reached and the “one size fits all” approach of the World Bank and the ADB that has dictated the urban policies in most of the developing Asia will not do. This one size fits all policies push for increased private sector participation to increase supply of infrastructure and services, which would then also reach the urban poor by the market bringing in accountability, stands questioned by these articles, though the authors and editors themselves may not have explicitly done so.

All the articles stop short of analysing why the urban poor have been excluded from various infrastructure and services in the cities of developing Asia. Also, is there any difference in the performance of different cities and different countries in their commitment towards the urban poor and why? For example, why has housing in Singapore been more inclusive [Van Grunsven 2000] than in Mumbai [Mahadevia and Narayan 2005]. Or, why there are no bicycle lanes in Indian cities as of now when most Chinese cities still have them and so on. There is also a time element in policy changes and some cities and countries have been more inclusive in the past than now. In that case, the positive aspects of past inclusiveness get carried forward, reducing marginalisation under the new conditions, for example, in China. The enquiry for further research on “inclusive cities” should be on analysing the politics and processes of inclusion and exclusion and what role the local and national state should play in giving some policy directions.



1’s%20Olympics%20Report.pdf, accessed on September 27, 2007.


ADB (2007): Inequality in Asia – Key Indicators 2007 Special Chapter Highlights, Asian Development Bank, Manila, http://www. documents/ books/key indicators/2007/pdf/ Inequality-inAsia-Highlights.pdf.

Mahadevia, Darshini and Harini Narayan (2005): Shanghaing Mumbai – Politics of Evictions and Resistance in Slum Settlements, Working Paper No 7, Centre for Development Alternatives, Ahmedabad.

Przeworski, Adam (1990): The State and Economy Under Capitalism, Harwood Academic Publishers, Chur, Switzerland; New York.

Robinson, Mark and Gordon White (2002): ‘Introduction’ in Mark Robinson and Gordon White (eds), The Democratic Developmental State

– Politics and Institutional Design, Oxford University Press, New York, pp 1-13.

Van Grunsven, Leo (2000): ‘Singapore: The Changing Residential Landscape in a Winner City’ in

VPM’s Centre for International Studies

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February 2, 2008 Economic & Political Weekly

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