Environmental upgrading and intra-urban migration in Calcutta
Approximately a third of the population of Calcutta live in slums and an estimated 43% live below the poverty level. This work examines the connections between three types of slums or low income settlements within the metropolitan area and investigates how recent attempts at improving one type, the Calcutta bustees, has affected the urban poor. Bustees are rented rooms in legal, traditionally designed, single storey buildings within the city. Since 1971 a large scale improvement Metropolitan programme has been implemented by the Calcutta Development Authority with the objectives of improving the health and sanitation, as well as the employment prospects, of bustee dwellers. However the bustees occupy valuable urban land in a city of severe shortage. Intra-urban migration, created by the natural increase of bustee tenants, is exacerbated by increasing land prices. Rent control exists but rather than offer protection it appears to be driving the real cost of obtaining accommodation underground, demands for large key money payments and evictions of sitting tenants have been reported. Some bustee landlords are rebuilding their properties into expensive, middle class apartment blocks. This has meant that those who were targeted for help have actually moved out of the area, often to settlements with far worse facilities than the bustees. Some moved to suburban slums far away from their work, while others became illegal squatters in the city close to job opportunities. Poor people are therefore moving out of the city to peripheral, legal, rented slums where there is space - but no employment, infrastructure, or services. As they seek accommodation in the suburbs, rents there are beginning to rise sharply. Suburban residents are suffering from the 'domino effect' of rising costs. They are priced out of the area and join the illegal squatter settlements back in the city. This study questions the appropriateness of area based investment strategies for the long term benefit of the urban poor.