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Plan Grid Layouts for Expanding Informal Settlements

Laying out a street grid in advance of slum growth will enable basic infrastructure critical to climate-change resilience.

Photo of Alexander Mansilya-Kruz
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EXPLAIN YOUR IDEA

While most cities dictate street layouts for formal developments, informal settlements often grow organically with no street planning at all, as city authorities consider them to be outside of the regulatory framework. Such a street-less layout perpetuates the lack of infrastructure: there is simply no space to build roads, water pipelines, sewerage or flood drainage. Cities must anticipate the growth of informal settlements and plan ahead, laying out a street grid. Importantly, this can only be done effectively with active participation from the local community.

WHO BENEFITS?

The main beneficiaries are the dwellers of informal settlements, who would have a substantially higher chance of getting basic infrastructure in their communities without large-scale demolitions. In addition, whoever is footing the bill for the infrastructure (be that the city government or an NGO etc.) will be happy to see that bill decrease.

HOW DOES YOUR IDEA TAKE INTO ACCOUNT THE CONTEXT OF URBAN SLUMS AND CLIMATE CHANGE?

Basic infrastructure is critical to reducing the adverse impact of climate change in urban slums. Water pipelines considerably reduce water spills and contamination, making the use of existing water resources more efficient. Sewage improves sanitation - a major concern in rapidly expanding informal settlements. Roads facilitate both rescue and evacuation in the event of a natural disaster, as well as, obviously, improving mobility on a normal day. Last but not least, drainage dramatically improves people's lives in slums affected by climate change: indeed, in a UN Habitat study published in 2011, slum dwellers singled out flooding as their most pressing concern related from climate change. Without doubt, basic physical-infrastructure networks have the potential to significantly improve slums' resilience to climate change both in everyday life and in wort-case scenarios. And a street grid is the starting point.

IN-COUNTRY EXPERIENCE

  • Not yet

EXPERTISE

  • I do not have experience working in a sector related to my idea

GEOGRAPHIC FOCUS

  • This idea is meant to inspire - I hope someone else takes it on!

TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF

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3 comments

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Photo of Marc Nyeland
Team

I think it is a great idea, and I think want could be done is to make a map/canvas for what to consider when drawing up the Grid. One should look it to how to make space for waste disposal, water, electricity, easy acces, how to make it not feel like an industrial plan and several more. It might even be developed into a paradigm where you have a canvas and different "blocks" to move around, make it easy to plan. It has to be easy and a fast process, so that it can be used as soon as new settlements are about to emerge.

Photo of Shane Zhao
Team

Thanks for the post Alexander, and great provocations Marc! Access to basic infrastructure and roads is indeed a big challenge to urban slums. It'll be interesting to explore examples of where planning have successfully facilitated the growth of urban slum communities. The Favela in Brazil and Urban Villages in Shenzhen would be two good areas to look into. Looking forward to hearing more!

Photo of Alexander Mansilya-Kruz
Team

Thanks for the kind words Shane. The picture above is from Karachi, where one can clearly see how a street grid makes a difference compared to earlier informal settlements devoid of streets.