Needs of urban poor must be addressed, say experts

Himalayan News Service

Kathmandu, May 29:

The government and local bodies must do something immed-iately for the growing number of the urban poor in the capital here before the problem actually explodes.This was suggested by the Magasaysay award winner and an activist for the slum-dwellers of Mumbai, Arputthan Jockin. Jockin who is the president of National Slum Dwellers Federation, is here to participate in an urban-poor related function. "It has become urgent now. You only see the growing city, but have closed your eyes to the growing number of slum-dwellers, who

are in fact the city-makers. The whole system will collapse if you fail to manage them," he told this daily today.

According to him, the urban poor do not need anything from outsiders, but their needs should be addressed those in power. They should be given some skill training and some loan be made available to them if they need it, he said. Jockin said he had spent two decades fighting government officials for the rights of the poor, who according to him are real builders of Mumbai. But he said, "Only discussion brought about a positive effect." "It was useless to lie on the streets or smash the windows. Of course I became popular through such acts, but despite all these, the poor got nothing. Now I am happy government officials are convinced enough to support our programmes," he added.

Director of Community Organisations Development Institute (CODI) of Bangkok, Somsook Boonyabancha, said the universal feeling regarding dirty, stinking and unwanted but necessary settlements of the slum areas has been changing. Boonyabancha is also the secretary-general of the Asia Coalition for Housing Rights, Habitat International Coalition.

"The government of Thailand now accepts slum settlement and its habitants as a necessary part of development of the city and provides funds for their development," she said. With support from government and other organisations, CODI now manages loans for development of the housing projects, house improvement, revolving fund, revolving network loans, community enterprise loans among others. She said it was an appreciable indication that some organisations like Lumanti was working for the urban poor, and that Kathmandu Metropolitan City had shown an interest to generate fund for the poor. "Only a joint effort involving the government, non government organisations and community people themeselves, can make it a long-term venture. This will ensure a better future for the country," she said, adding the money state invests in the urban poor will never go to waste.