Cities and Slums

  • Lucy Mair


The enormous recent increase in the population of cities all over the LDCs is a commonplace. It is not an aim of development policies, far from it; it is an unintended consequence. It presents governments with problems of various kinds, notably that of providing adequate housing. Some of them also think these problems cannot be solved unless the flow of migration is controlled. This was one reason, though only a minor one, why Chairman Mao banished thousands of city dwellers to the country to ‘learn from the peasants’ in the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution; it is one reason, though perhaps a minor one, for the South African policy of ‘influx control’ aimed at limiting the African population of cities strictly to the numbers for which there is employment. In that country, when it was first introduced by a relatively liberal government, it was a reaction to the devastation of the 1918 influenza epidemic; it was recognized that reasonably sanitary housing conditions must be provided for urban labourers, and at the same time that the resources available for this would be limited. Of course the fear that epidemics starting in slums will spread to high-income areas reinforces or may even take precedence over humanitarian considerations.


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© Lucy Mair 1984

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  • Lucy Mair

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