Ahmedabad has been a trading city throughout history. Eastern Ahmedabad,
within the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) limits, but outside
of the walled city, was the first area to industrialize, with textile
mills near the railway. The earliest low-income housing were the
chawls, single-room housing units built for the industrial workers.
Chawls mushroomed as the accommodation for the (migrant) workers
during the late 19th and the early 20th centuries. Controls kept
rentals extremely low, discouraging maintenance, and many chawls
deteriorated rapidly. This was particularly the case following a
crisis in the textile industry and the closure of the factories.
From the 1950s onwards, urban growth largely took place in the eastern
and, particularly, the western urban peripheries, where illegal
occupation of marginal areas represents the housing option for newly
arrived migrants and other economically weaker urban groups.
Although migrants who arrived after independence
largely settled in informal settlements at the urban periphery,
chawls are still present in large numbers. Eastern Ahmedabad has
about 44 per cent of the total housing units in the AMC region,
with 54.8 per cent of the total dwelling units in the category of
chawls and slums. It accounts for 75 per cent of the chawl units
and 47 per cent of the slum units in the city.
In the case study, a slum is defined as a compact area with a collection
of poorly built tenements, mostly of a temporary nature, crowded
together and usually with inadequate sanitary and drinking water
facilities in unhygienic conditions.
There are two dominant types of low-income residential areas found
in the city: chawls residential units, originally built in the mill
premises for workers, and slums that represent illegal occupation
of marginal areas of the city. The latter typically lack facilities
and basic amenities and are found along riverfronts, in low-lying
areas, on vacant private or government land.
Tenure patterns and percentages are unclear but are closely related
to the possession of a ration card (71 to 75 per cent of households)
and/or an AMC photo pass (2.5 to 10 per cent of households). Close
to 28 per cent had neither and their tenure status remains undefined.
These figures roughly appear to reflect the following percentages:
owner (70 per cent), renter (about 20 per cent) and undefined (8
The percentage of Ahmedabad housing categorized as slums increased
from 17.2 per cent in 1961 to 22.8 per cent in 1971 and 25.6 per
cent in 1991. It is estimated that 17.1 per cent of Ahmedabad’s
population lived in slums in 1971. This rose to an estimated 21.4
per cent in 1982. The last estimate, based on a population census
for the year 1991, nevertheless indicates that 40 per cent of households
lived in slums and chawls.
Muslims, SCs (scheduled casts) and OBCs (other backward casts) constitute
91 per cent of the slum households, and more than 95 per cent of
slum dwellers are migrants, indicating how rural poverty levels
are now spilling over into urban areas. Often fleeing rural inter-cast
exploitation and debts, slum populations require their children
to contribute to the household income. Victimized by the police,
municipal authorities and the upper classes alike, this group represents
a particularly vulnerable section of society.
A series of shifts to improve the conditions in low income settlements
have occurred since the 1950s. From initial slum clearance, the
focus is now more on environmental and slum upgrading and community-based
slum networking. With 40 per cent of its population of more than
3 million living in slums, the AMC functioned, until the early 1990,
as a small welfare state. It deliberately made life easier for the
poor by applying a regime that did not enforce anti-poor regulations,
while tolerating squatter settlements on public and private land
and allowing public space to be used for income-generating activities,
with forced evictions rare. The AMC even constructed a small number
of low-income houses.
An amendment to the Municipal Corporation Act during the 1970s obliged
the AMC to spend 10 per cent of its revenue on improving basic services
in slums and chawls. Based on a soft international loan, the AMC
extended urban services to slums in its eastern suburbs. Under the
Slum Improvement Partnership, the AMC now coordinates and facilitates
the activities of other agencies, while picking up a considerable
proportion of the costs in an effort to link slum upgrading with
city-level service-delivery standards.
Nevertheless, the AMC had still failed to fully include many of
the new insights in their overall urban planning. It is, in particular,
their unwillingness to grant security of tenure for periods of longer
than 10 years that sends out strong negative signals. Furthermore,
the labyrinth of regulatory mechanisms and the complex procedures
of the urban planning process have not helped the poor either. Although
the AMC has not executed wholesale slum demolitions, public housing
agencies have not provided citylevel shelter programmes for the
has been extracted from:
UN-Habitat (2003) Global Report on Human Settlements 2003, The Challenge
of Slums, Earthscan, London; Part IV: 'Summary of City Case Studies',