Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Urban Planner's Nightmare

Jonas Bendiksen's documentation of life in slums around the world has resulted in a touring multimedia exhibition. It was produced in cooperation with the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo, Norway. The exhibition opened in Oslo this month.

To compliment this exhibition, The Peace Center has also produced, The Places We Live, an utterly riveting narrated Flash slideshow of the world's slums. It takes the form of a series of panoramic photos of slums around the world, with voice-over from people who live there (in translation). It is worth a long visit.

Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya
Caracas, Venezuela
Dharavi, Mumbai, India
Jakarta, Indonesia

Over 1 billion people live in slums. Urban dwellers are the fastest growing population in the world. It is estimated that the number of impoverished urban dwellers will double in the next 25 years. This extraordinary slide show provides a feeling for the sense of place in which a vast, and growing, number of people live, most in abject conditions.

A slum is defined as:
A household that lacks any two of the following five elements: access to sufficient amounts of water for family use at an affordable price, without being subject to extreme effort; access to improved sanitation, either in the form of a private toilet or a public toilet shared with a reasonable number of people; security of tenure (the rights of a tenant to hold property); housing in a permanent and adequate structure in a non-hazardous location; and, in most areas, a household requiring more than two people to share the same room.

These are the most dense communities in the world, with up to 30 people to a square meter. Despite commonly held assumptions, they are not simply places of poverty and misery. Yet slum dwellers continually face enormous challenges such as lack of health care, sanitation and electricity. How we care for this population of people over the coming decades will be a significant challenge among many we will face.

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