Earth Report City Specials

Posted: 20 June 2001

Already nearly half of humanity lives in cities. The UN predicts that this figure will rise to more than three-fifths by the year 2030, and that 94 per cent of the increase will be in the new megacities of Asia, Latin America and Africa.

Many of the world's city-dwellers live in slums or shanty towns, with no access to clean water or basic sanitation and in constant fear of eviction. To coincide with the UN City Summit in New York (June 2001), 'Earth Report' is focusing on the global problem of rapid urbanisation. In a series of five special programmes, 'Earth Report' investigates how poor people are striving to live in cities despite pressure from developers and city authorities who view them as the problem rather than part of the solution.

Land Rites (27 mins)

Imagine waking up in a typhoon and being too scared to evacuate, in case your home of twenty years was demolished - not by disaster but by developers. Imagine waking up with the bulldozers moving in. This is the reality for millions of the urban poor. The first of five Earth Report City Specials, Land Rites looks at how land titles may or may not create security for the urban poor. The programme considers a range of options which may be adopted by communities and governments in order to create more inclusive cities. Land Rites looks at the problem from the perspective of the urban poor and challenges conventional ways of thinking about how they can become more secure.

Streetwise - A View from the People (27 mins)

The human race is becoming a predominently urban species. For the first time in history more than half of the world's population now live in towns and cities - and the numbers are rising daily, adding to the ranks of urban poor. In 1996, at the UN Habitat meeting in Istanbul, member states committed to a radical plan for improving the living conditions of the underprivileged. Guided by Homeless International - an organisation working with community groups worldwide - Earth Report went to the most deprived districts of a dozen cities to see how the urban poor were benefiting from governments' new resolve to work with them, and teamed up with slum-dweller federations and city groups to record how - against formidable odds - they are making change happen. Running concurrently with Land Rites, the first of four programmes introduces city dwellers from around the world through their video diaries. These short films give members of urban poor federations a chance to show how their organisations can tackle urban poverty and how governments can help. Despite the ever-present fear of eviction and daily hardships it is clear that their willpower is driving change and raising hope.

Streetwise - Facing the Challenge (27 mins)

In this the second of four programmes following the lives of city dwellers from around the world we see how individuals backed by federations are tackling the daily threat of eviction. In Bangkok, Thailand, we see how a centuries old community, Ban Krua, has effectively blocked an expressway which threatened to destroy their homes; while in India we see how a group of (local networks) involving the Railway Slum Dwellers Federation, SPARC, Mahila Milan and the National Slum Dwellers Federation have negotiated a new way of working with the authorities to safeguard the lives and homes of 32,000 slum dwellers living within 50 feet of the tracks in Mumbai.

Streetwise - Banking On Us (27 mins)

If you want to borrow money to buy or improve your home, you must be credit worthy. But for the millions of people living in shanty towns borrowing from the high street bank is out of the question. In this the third of four programmes introducing city dwellers from around the world we follow four people who tell us the stories of their communities and federations. In the Philippines we witness how in the face of catastrophe scavengers living on a rubbish tip have come together to lobby the government for land and save money to move to a safer environment; while in South Africa we see how a group of women who spent months living on a grass verge in the middle of one of Durban's busiest highways found a way to secure land through a savings scheme which now has over 100,000 families.

Streetwise - Trading Places? (time?)

In this the final of four programmes tracking city dwellers from around the world, we see how the problems of homelessness are not just a 'Third World' issue. From New York to Moscow we hear from people who have lost their homes through family break ups or shifting political agendas; and see how contrary to public opinion many are overcoming prejudice and low self esteem to come up with practical solutions which challenge government policies and create change.

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