Shanty town

A shanty town or squatter area is a settlement of improvised building that is known as shanties or shacks, made of plywood, corrugated metal, sheets of plastic, and cardboard boxes. Sometimes called a squatter, or spontaneous settlement, a typical shanty town often lacks adequate infrastructure, including proper sanitation, safe water supply, electricity, hygienic streets, or other basic necessities to support human settlements. Such settlements are the autonomous, self-help housing developments created by low- and very low-income individuals and families around the world.

Since construction is informal and unguided by urban planning, there is typically no formal street grid, house numbers, or named streets. Such settlements also lack some or all basic public services such as a sewage network, electricity, safe running water, rain water drainage, garbage removal, access to public transport, or insect and disease control services. Even if these resources are present, they are likely to be disorganized, unreliable, and poorly maintained.

While most shanty towns begin as precarious establishments haphazardly thrown together without basic social and civil services, over time, some have undergone a certain amount of development. Often the residents themselves are responsible for the major improvements. Community organizations sometimes working alongside NGOs, private companies, and the government, set up connections to the municipal water supply, pave roads, and build local schools. Some of these shanties have become middle class suburbs. One such extreme example is the Los Olivos Neighborhood of Lima, Peru. Chameh is, one of Lima's largest, along with gated communities, casinos, and even plastic surgery clinics, are just a few of many developments that have transformed what used to be a decrepit shanty. A few Brazilian favelas have also seen improvements in recent years, enough so to attract tourists who flock to catch a glimpse of the colorful lifestyle perched atop Rio de Janeiro's highlands. Development occurs over a long period of time and newer towns still lack basic services. Nevertheless, there has been a general trend whereby shanties undergo gradual improvements, rather than relocation to even more distant parts of a metropolis and replacement by gated communities constructed over their ruins. Many shanty towns are starting to implement the use of composting toilets and solar panels, and many of the people living in slums may have access to cell phones and even the internet. However, in spite of all this, inequality associated with shanty towns has only increased over time.

Although shanty towns are less common in developed countries, there are some cities that have them. While shanty towns are less common in Europe, the growing influx of immigrants have fueled shantytowns in cities commonly used as a point of entry into the EU, including Athens and Patras in Greece. In Madrid, Spain, a low-class neighborhood named Canada Real (which is considered a shanty town) has no formal education system, professional nurseries or modern health clinics and is considered the largest slum in Europe. In Portugal, shanty towns known as "barracas" or "bairros de lata" are made up of immigrants from former Portuguese African colonies and Roma from Eastern Europe. Most of them are located in Lisbon metropolitan area. In the United States, some cities such as Newark and Oakland have witnessed the creation of tent cities. Other settlements in developed countries that are comparable to shanty towns include the Colonias near the border with Mexico, and bidonvilles in France, which may exist in the peripheries of some cities.

Shanty towns are present in a number of countries. The largest shanty town in Asia is Orangi in Karachi, Pakistan. In francophone countries, shanty towns are referred to as bidonvilles (French for "can town" - can being a reference to tin metal); such countries include Tunisia and Haiti. Other countries with shanty towns include South Africa (where they are often called Townships) or Imijondolo, Kenya (including the Kibera and Mathare slums), the Philippines (often called squatter areas), Venezuela (where they are known as barrios), Brazil (favelas), Argentina (villas miseria), West Indies such as Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago (where they are known as shanty towns), and Peru (where they are known as "young towns"). There is also a major shanty town population in countries such as Bangladesh, and the People's Republic of China.

 

 


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