Report on ACHR – Kathmandu Visit
August 02, 2011:
Morning: Lumanti made a presentation of their work and issues. Detail discussions followed.
Afternoon: Visited four informal settlements. Had discussions with community members.
August 03, 2011:
Morning: Meeting with Joint Secretary and Minister of Land Reform.
Afternoon: Visit to the Department of Architecture and discussions with professors Sudarshan Raj Tiwari and Han C. Bjonness on Nepal history and society.
Evening: Dinner with Lajana and ex-Mayor of Kathmandu
August 04, 2011:
Morning: Feedback to the Lumanti team
Afternoon: Meeting with WATSAN Group (including UNDP/UNCHS)
Evening: Meeting with Kanak Dixit. Discussions on transport and economy.
August 05, 2011:
Morning: Delivered lecture on “Urban Imperatives: Land, Housing and Transport”
Afternoon: Left for Karachi
2. Issues that emerged
There is no security of tenure with the communities that Lumanti works with. In the absence of security what should the communities do? Should they make investments in development of their settlements with the hope that this will bring them security? Or should they not make investments but lobby for tenure and make investments after they get it?
This is a decision that the communities can best make themselves. If the settlements were larger, I would say go ahead and make investments. Security would be provided by the large number of households. However, by Pakistani standards the communities are too small to seek refugee in numbers.
Lobbying for security as individual settlements should be encouraged. However, lobbying for the creation of a new law that provides settlements on government lands with security is necessary. I would suggest the following:
- Development plans for the settlements should be prepared, costed and rules and regulations for their implementation should be developed. The option of land sharing should be looked into and discussed with the communities.
- Similar laws from other countries in the region should be collected and made part of the suggested document in i) above. I can contribute the Sindh Government Katchi Abadi Act of 1978.
- A network of settlements, the federation and their “civil society” supporters should be established. The network should have a name and should preferably be arranged in a way that Lumanti should not appear to be the leader of the network.
- This network should lobby for an appropriate law with the Minister of Land Reform who is a Maoist.
- Visits of the Minister and her team should be arranged to Thailand and Cambodia.
Given the situation of flux in the politics of Nepal, I feel that the Moists would be interested in supporting the formulation of a law that provides security of tenure. Such a law will give them a large number of votes. I am sure they realise this and if they do not, material to make them realise this needs to be developed by the communities with support from the network.
Relocation has been offered to one settlement and the government is providing free land for it. The relocation site is far away from the city and from where people work and have businesses. Relocation to this site will add to the cost of travel and travel time and will make it difficult for women to work. It is also unlikely that the government will continue to provide free land. Relocation, therefore, should be the last option.
If the communities agree to relocate, then, it should be proposed that they should look for and purchase the land themselves and the government should provide a subsidy. In my experience, communities identify better land than government agencies and also negotiate a better price.
We looked at the land cost in Kathmandu. Even on the periphery of the town land costs are far too high for poor communities. Repayment for land alone works out to over Rs 3,000 a month for 12 years at a rate of 4 per cent interest. House building costs are in addition to this.
2.3 Plot Development versus Apartments
Apartments are unsuitable for the people’s lifestyle and work. Also, they are expensive and cannot be added to incrementally. As such, a case for row housing should be encouraged. 32 square metres plots with permission to build four floors will give similar densities to apartment blocks. A visit to the website www.urbandensity.org would be useful. It would be useful if in consultation with the community that has to be relocated, Lumanti prepared and costed a rehabilitation plan on the basis of individual plots. This would help in the lobbying process.
Lumanti wishes to develop a rental project. In my opinion it should not do so. Given land costs it is not an economically feasible proposition. In addition, Lumanti will be burdened on looking after it.
Rentals, in the absence of affordable land, are becoming the only option for the poor. What Lumanti could do is identify members in its cooperatives who would like to rent out rooms in their houses. On that basis, appropriate designs for the houses of those members could be developed. Alternatively, in every upgrading and/or relocation project a few plots could be developed as rentals that the cooperative can manage. This will also give the cooperative additional income.