1024px-Cyclone_Nargis_-Myanmar-3May2008

B1: Informal Settlements: Let the People Be the Solution

What are some principles for working with informal settlements? In the Resilient Cities Asia-Pacific panel B1 on 2 March, experts shared their experiences and found some common lessons.

Chawand Luansang of the Asian Coalition for Human Rights (ACHR) spoke of how his organization is working on covering all communities through a city-wide approach. He also emphasized the need to involve citizens. The learning curve for communities, he added, can be rapid: once people from a community become involved in developing resilience strategies, they tend to refine their initial strategies. ACHR had seen this in particular following Cyclone Nargis in 2008 in Myanmar, where people had been trained to conduct mapping exercises for their informal settlements and establish priorities for sustainable rebuilding.

This point was reiterated by Mayang Nayoan of the Arkomjogja organization. In Yogyakarta, she explained, where 70% of the population lives on the riverside, a resilience strategy to flooding had been developed by the residents themselves. This included mapping, planning, and saving. Arkomjogja is now working with the communities on the construction of the solutions. Nayoan’s experience led her to emphasize one simple motto:

“Let the people be the solution.”

Luansang and Nayoan also highlighted the need to organize communities and find connections between issues – a point echoed by Ruth Erlbeck of the GIZ, who presented the benefits of the NEXUS approach, which seeks to develop integrated resource management solutions. One issue in informal settlements, she explained, is solid waste management, with septic tanks producing greenhouse gas emissions and frequently leaking. When floods happen, the problems are exacerbated greatly by the leaked waste.

While this issue in informal settlements is a problem, it can also be seen as an opportunity. The NEXUS approach encourages solutions that close the loops between water, energy and food. Thus, in Da Nang, Vietnam, the GIZ has helped to develop a solution that uses the waste to produce energy. This not just resolves the problem of leaked waste but develops multiple benefits from a single issue in informal settlements.

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Featured Image: Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar, by Mohd Nor Azmil Abdul Rahman via Wikimedia.