Citizens who rent flats in Kathmandu must return to their home villages to vote during an election and celebrate festival. When asked where “home” is, Nepali refers to their home village (original place) rather than their Kathmandu dwelling. So, the literal meaning of slum dweller is a settlement for people without a home or land. Like “slum” or “squatter”, however, the Nepali term is often used pejoratively to connote degenerate qualities. The village’s immediate neighbors openly voice the negative stereotypes of slum dwellers (Pigg, 1992).
Fuller states “a house is to a family what soil is to a plant. If a family is not rooted, it will not flourish. But once a family is well-rooted, all kinds of wonderful things will begin to happen” (Fuller, 2000:1). A family that is rooted is a family that has a simple and decent place to live. It is more applicable in developing countries where human rights and shelter issues are of great importance and strong sentimental value is attached to land ownership and to making a home (Fuller, 1995: 9). Informal settlements vary greatly in their size and location, in the way they are formed and in the reasons why people live in the informal settlements. Informal settlements have increasingly emerged as one of the principle features of cities in many third world countries. It is complex and diverse in a variety of ways, such as in their physical form, the nature of poverty, vulnerability, social problems within the settlement, and the rural linkages of residents. Although informal settlements can be cohesive and tightly knit, there are often severe social problems caused by poverty and vulnerability, and by a general sense of social exclusion.
Of the 26 million population of Nepal, 14.2 percent in urban areas. The average national population density is 157 per Sq. Km whereas in Kathmandu district is 10265 per Sq. Km. Kathmandu population growth rate is estimated at 6 % per annum (Sharma, 2003: 396). In stark contrast to the economic scenario, the ever-growing population is burdened in the Kathmandu. It is the denial of opportunities and choices, which “lead to freedom, dignity, self-respect and the inability to create a decent standard of living for one’s family” (NESAC, 1999: 125). The rapid development of economic opportunities, facilities and urban amenities in the city, and the even allocation of resources for the development and institutionalization in the rest of the country have added to the pressure for migration to the capital. The challenges and opportunities in the Kathmandu have attracted people from different parts of the country (Thapa, et. al. 2007: 45-49).
As a centralized political power exercise, most of the economic activities and development systems, the Kathmandu city is one of the fastest growing cities in South Asia with 2.6 million inhabitants and 6.6% urban growth rate. The living conditions are one of the important things to human beings. Kathmandu is a pulling factors for the poverty, unemployment, etc. compelled them to come in urban to build various forms Sukumbasi (slum dwellers) houses in public land. The informal dwellers are being forced by socio-economic and other circumstances to invade public land because there are no other alternatives available to them, either to house them or to eve out a livelihood, which is the development program of many countries have not been able to solve. Nobody would live by choice in a location that is vulnerable to natural disaster and eviction. A place that they are the responsible when the true fault lies with Kathmandu’s lack of proper infrastructure for sewage and solid waste disposals. Socio-economically deprived families are come from different districts have work and live in the riverbank. Given this, it is argued that steps should be taken to improve their living conditions and enable them to improve their living conditions through access settlement opportunities in particular. It would very difficult to reduce the incidence of slum dwellers in Nepal without improving the socio-economic situation of their poverty stricken families. One alternative measure that could reduce the numbers of slum dwellers might be an effective labor intensive job through rational/practical policies focusing the problems of marginalized families. Land and home are synonymous in the minds of most Nepali.
Urbanization has been observed in Nepal from the 1970s onward (ILO 2001: 2-3), showing one of the highest rates in Asia (Thapa et. al. 2007: 45-49). The percentage of urban informal dwellers is higher than the rural (NSSBR, 1992: 58). This will put more pressure on housing demand.
Table 1: Number of Inhabitants of Informal Settlements in Kathmandu District (1985-2003)
|Year||No. of Settlements||No. of Inhabitants||Population|
The housing condition of the informal settlements tends to correspond to their age with the newer settlements made up of temporary structures and progressing to more permanent structures over the passage of time. The proliferation and continuation of informal settlements is “due mainly to the laissez faire attitude of the government, growing disparity in housing affordability and the failure to formulate policies” (NESAC, 1999: 127).
Status of the Slum Dwellers
Nepal has one of the highest urban population growth rates in South Asia- estimated around 7 percent in the early part of the decade-fueled by the long-standing political conflict and diminishing economic and employment opportunities in rural areas. The growth of manufacturing and services, which are predominantly urban in character, has been more than double that of the rural economy. Yet the urban economy operates under service constraints in Nepal, with the key challenge going forward being that of maximizing the economic opportunities offered by urbanization and agglomeration while securing environmental sustainability and social equity. In Nepal proliferation of informal settlements is associated with the urban-rural migration influx, cross-border migration and inherent socio-economic disparity aggravated by soaring costs of housing and rising unemployment. Bagmati riverbank has been experiencing tremendous number of inhabitants.
Table 2: Informal Settlements in the Bagmati River Bank between1969-2000
|SN||Informal Settlement Name||No. of House||Population||Year of Settlement|
Source: Chhetri, 2007
It has been found that there are a total of 13 informal clusters comprising around 5406 families. Haphazard and unguided processes of land use change invite such diverse consequences as inadequate housing and urban services (ADB & ICIMOD, 2006:6). It has faced problems of housing, land management, solid waste management, etc. (KMC, 2005). The housing stock of Nepal is approximately 4 million and a half percent of them are of very low quality (http: www.kathamndu.gov.np/cds/cdsreports). These low quality shelters are making the poor people poorer, homeless, bankrupt as fire hazard burns away all their belongings, which are their life long saving. The poor people have to rebuild their shelter, compelling them to take a loan, which will become a burden to the dwellers for the long time. Arias states that “decent shelter is a basic human need and a basic human right“(Arias, 2003:10).
Figure 2: Informal Settlement of Bijayanagar in the Bagmati Riverbank
(Source: Fieldwork 2018)
Informal occupancy of land and buildings is a growing phenomenon, supported at times through political backing. A study suggests that informal settlements have grown in number from 17 in 1970 to 63 in 2006 in Kathmandu. There is accommodated 2600 families or nearly 15,000 people (Karki, 2004). Most of the settlement is found on public land, marginal land, and areas prone to natural disasters. They have no formal title for the house and have no basic social services. Among the 13 slum dwellers’ settlements in Bagmati riverbank, Bijayanagar is one informal settlement. Total households of Bijayanagar was 148 with a total population of 836 (female 49.00% and male 51.00%. The average family size was 6. Tamang, Newar, Brahamin, Cheetri, Magar, Tamang, Lama, Rai, Limbu, Giri, Bhujel and dalit groups are resided in the slum dwellers. It was found that 11.5 % of the family came from Ramechhap, and followed by 11.5 % Rasuwa, 11 Sinduli, 10 Okhaldunga, 9 Khotang, 9 Nuwakot, 8.9 Dolakha, 8.1 Kavre, 7.6 Dhading, 7.4 Makawanpur and 6 from unidentified. It seems that mostly the family came from the districts around Kathmandu.
The word ‘squatter’ conjures up images of land grabbers and river polluters. In short, the city cannot be left unattended. Informal settlements are a result of unemployment, underemployment, high dependency ratio, very low income, social injustice, economic exploitation and illiteracy compelled them to come to the city to find work and to live at the riverbank. Though, have they actually taken the time to consider what life is like inside these settlements? Nobody would live by choice in a location that is vulnerable to natural disasters and evictions. That is the place where lack of infrastructure for drinking water, toilet, solid waste disposals, etc. Slum dwellers have no place for self-identity formation.
The findings in the present study are found positive picture of an organization that is otherwise interpret differently. Secure settlement is the main motto of slum organization. Inhabitants said that they are lobbying with human right, civil society and government to secure inhabitants. Hence, the slum dwellers struggle for access to few available plots just for existence in the side of river bank. As a result in the slum dwellers their own word is that “we slum dwellers” end up squatting on marginal land on the riverbanks. It would very difficult to reduce the incidence of slum dwellers without improving the economic situation of their poverty. It is required to reduce their unemployment/underemployment rate. One alternative measure that could reduce the numbers of slum dwellers might be an effective labor intensive job in the government, non-government, private agencies, etc.