Calcutta Case StudyCalcutta lies in the Ganges delta, at the centre of an area that has a dense, overcrowded rural population. The soils of the delta are fertile, but the area suffers many natural disasters. it is often flooded by monsoon rains or by cyclones. In the late twentieth century, the area suffered from wars and civil conflicts. Each new war or flood brings refugees flocking to Calcutta.

The land is low-lying, so many of the squatter settlements (bustees) flood easily. The floods not only detroy homes, they also bring disease in the polluted floodwater. Until recently, Calcutta had a reputation for some of the worst slums in the world. It was here that Mother Teresa cared for thousands of street people.

The Calcutta Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) has tried to improve infrastrcuture by:
-- Reinforcing the banks of the River Hooghly and attempting to stop people from squatting on the lowest-lying land near the river.
-- Improving sewage disposal - in the 1960s there were about 1000 sewage related deaths a year from cholera, but in recent years there have been very few.
-- Improving the water supply - there is now at least one tap for every 25 bustee houses.
-- Replacing mud tracks between the shacks with concrete roads.
-- Installing street lighting in many bustees, to improve safety and to give some light to people with no electricty in their homes
-- Widening roads and improving public transport from the bustees into the city centre.

The Brown Agenda
Cities in the less developed world are affected by the brown agenda, a mix of social and environmental problems brought by rapid growth and industrialisation associated with economic development. It has two main components:
-- Traditional issues associated with the limited availibility of good quality land, shelter and services such as good quality, clean water.
-- Problems resulting from rapid industrialisation, such as toxic or hazardous waste, water, air and noise pollution, and industrial accidents owing to a poor standard of health and safety.

Urban Regeneration In The Developing World
City authorities in these areas are aware of the problems of large squatter settlements, but rarely have enough resources to tackle them.
-- In some cities such as Lagos, Nigeria and Caracas, Venezuela, the authorities have built high-rise apartment blocks to rehouse people. However, in most places there is not enough money available to do this.
-- In some countries, the authorities have helped migrants to the city by allowing them to build houses in site and service schemes. An area of land that is not too far from workplaces in the city is divided into individual plots by the authorities. Roads, water and sanitation may be provided. New comers can rent a plot of land and build there own house, following certain guidlines. When they have more money they can improve there house.
-- Once people have built a house, no matter how basic it is, they are likely to improve it - providing they are confident they will not be evicted from the land. If people are to improve their homes they must be given legal ownership of the land. Self-help schemes are important in all major big cities. People improve their houses slowly, for example by replacing mud walls with bricks or breeze blocks, fitting proper windows and doors, and adding rooms and upper floors. City authorities usually provide water and standpipes in the street and, later help with sanitation and waste collection. Commercial bus operators will start services to the settlement and the local community may build health centres. In this way, people work together to improve the area. Overtime it changes from a poor, illegal settlement to a legal, medium-quality housing area.

Slums of Hope? Slums of Despair?
Squatter settlements are often seen as places of deprivation - slums of despair. It is true that in many cases the physical, economic and social conditions are very poor. However it is merely a matter of opinion, others see it as slums of hope. In reality most settlements have features of both hope and despair.