Urbanization, Slum Formation and Land Reform: A Case Study of Papua New Guinea
Urbanization, Slum Formation and Land Reform: Papua New Guinea
Global Urbanization, Slum Formation, and the Persistence of Slums
Urbanization is a phenomenon affecting each and every country of the world. In this text, I hypothesize that Papua New Guinea ought to fix its land policies so as to properly manage urbanization. One of the country's cities, Port Moresby, has been grappling with informal settlements as a consequence of rural-urban migration that has taken place in the past, sine the 1960s. Currently, up to 50% of Port Moresby's residents (both recent and long-established) put up in informal settlements. If the issue of land is not addressed, as will be highlighted elsewhere in this text, the situation is likely to worsen given that the country's rural to urban migration is projected to be on a sustained upward trend. Papua New Guinea's urbanization rate, as per the most recent updates, stands at 4.5% per annum (Cities Alliance, 2011). As Cities Alliance (2011) further points out, most of the said growth is taking place "in informal settlements, many without access to services or employment opportunities and located in areas vulnerable to the impacts of climate change." As I have pointed out elsewhere in this text, a significant percentage of land in Papua New Guinea is under customary ownership. As cities and other urban centers expand, encroachment onto the customary land fringe will largely be inevitable. It is the failure to unlock the value of most of the country's land, and hence facilitate urban growth, that has led to the establishment of informal settlements - or as they have been called in other settings, 'brands of urbanization.'
Slum formation remains one of the most discussed issues in not only urban geography, but also environmental science and economics. On this front, various explanations have been advanced in a bid to explain slum formation. Slums, according to Cities Alliance (2014), are not a new occurrence or phenomenon. As a matter of fact, "they have been part of the history of most cities, particularly in the early years of urbanization and industrialization as populations boomed" (Cities Alliance, 2014). Given the intense competition for profits and land in cities, slums become the only available form of settlement for the urban poor. According to Cities Alliance (2014), the development of slums is informed or triggered by two key factors. These are population growth and governance.
With regard to population growth, it is important to note that across the world, nations are urbanizing at a faster rate than was the case a few decades ago -- as people move to cities, from rural areas. In Port Moresby for instance, rural-urban migration has been occurring since the 1960s. However, the said migration has only gained significant momentum within the last two decades (Repic, 2011). The author explains that from the 1960s, "Port Moresby became a main point of attraction for numerous migrants from every part of Papua New Guinea" (Repic, 2011, p. 77). Most of those who came to the city, as Rew and Epstein (as cited in Repic, 2011, p. 77) point out, were attracted by "waged labor at plantations and industrial compounds." In that regard, therefore, informal urban settlements which do not have any reference to different ethnic origins in Port Moresby are largely a colonial legacy triggered by the rural-urban migratory trends from the 1960s. In this case, those who found themselves without a place to stay (due to efforts aimed at worsening segregation and failure by their employers to accommodate them) established urban informal settlements, with most of these settlements, according to Chand and Yala (as cited in Repic, 2011, p. 77) being "established on the outskirts of the rapidly growing town, on marginal land, riverbanks, steep gullies or even swamps." Over the years, those living in the informal settlements have not only brought in their rural-based families, but they have also attracted other immigrants seeking better prospects in the city (just as had been the case with the early labor migrants).
According to Cities Alliance (2014) "more than half of the world's population resides in urban areas." As the organization further points out, the developing world, including Papua New Guinea, accounts for approximately 90% of the global urban growth. The world's urban population as Florida (2014) predicts is likely to grow to 6.25 billion. Of this, a total of 5.1 billion people, as Florida further predicts, will be living in urban settings in the developing world. Some of the factors that trigger urban migration include, but they are not limited to inadequate opportunities in rural areas (i.e. As a result of low incomes from agriculture and slim job prospects), better living standards in urban settings, and occurrence of events that push individuals out of their place of origin (i.e. natural disasters like draught).
Governance -- specifically bad governance, also has a role to play in slum formation (Cities Alliance, 2014). In addition to disregarding the rights of the urban poor, governments -- most particularly in developing countries like Papua New Guinea, often fail to integrate the said urban poor in urban planning efforts, effectively leading to the formation of slums. As Cities Alliance (2014) further points out, many countries are finding it difficult to deal with rapid urbanization. Most times, those coming into cities "find their own land and build a shack before the government has a chance to learn of their existence" (Cities Alliance, 2014).
Every slum, according to Agnihotri (1994, p. 29), "passes through various stages during its development." The process the author in this case suggests has got to do with the "formation of various nuclei, expansion of older nuclei and intensification of the oldest" (Agnihotri, 1994, p. 29). This is clear from the example of informal settlements in Port Moresby, as highlighted elsewhere in this text; with the nuclei having been formed in the 1960s once people begun settling on the city's outskirts. The expansion of the older nuclei has taken place over the years, with the intensification of the oldest having taken place within the last two decades. As many authors and researchers have pointed out in recent times, there are various reasons that underpin slum development. The two reasons highlighted by Agnihotri (1994) include land unavailability and rapid population growth. The other factors that intervene in the formation of slums include, but they are not limited to, housing shortage and the inability of in-migrants to afford alternative housing. In Port Moresby - Papua New Guinea's Capital for example, "a chronic lack of affordable housing has resulted in even professionals and public servants moving into informal settlements…" (Asia Sentinel, 2012).
When it comes to the persistence of slums, it is important to note that there are a number of factors that affect the size as well as spread of a slum. On the surface, as far as the spread of slums is concerned, there are two forces involved, i.e. The opposing forces and the agglomerative forces (Agnihotri, 1994). Slum-spread occurs when the latter overpower the former. According to Florida (2014), "despite major advances, the world's slum population will likely double to 2 billion by 2015."
Why exactly do slums persist? What is it that makes then endure the best efforts to contain their growth and expansion? In the year 2011, efforts by the Indian government to realize a 'slum-free India' became a cropper after "the country's Committee on Slum Statistics came out with a sobering estimate," just two years after the said efforts were launched (Florida, 2014). It was revealed that even with enhanced efforts, the country's 'slum population' was on track to a 12% growth "between 2011 and 2017" (Florida, 2014). It is important to note that in some instances, efforts to better the quality of lives of slum dwellers could end up complicating matters even more. Although City Alliance disputes this assertion, Florida (2014) firmly argues out that "any improvements in quality of life in slum neighborhoods can increase the pace of in-migration, leading to more overcrowding and a cycle of increasing poverty." For instance, in Port Moresby, the number of those putting up in urban settlements has risen steadily over the years, with Mike (as cited in Repic, 2011, p. 78) estimating that as of the year 2000, there were approximately "100,000 people living in more than 50 urban settlements that housed one third of the entire population of Port Moresby." This figure represents an enormous increase from the 1964 figure of only 4,500 immigrants. The total population of Port Moresby, as of a census conducted in the year 2000, was 254,158 people (Jones, 2009).
Slum Upgrading and the Delivery of Land and Provision of Basic Services in the Context of Urban Growth and Governance
Most of the land -- more than 97%, in Papua New Guinea, as Cooter (1991) points out has historically been under customary ownership. This has meant "that boundaries have not been surveyed, title has not been registered, and the…