Slum Clearance




Slums are the natural outcome of chaos, lawlessness and absence of state. There should be no slums in a good civilization, as no civilized country creates slums on purpose, intentionally spreading chaos. Clearing slums is the first step in restoring order that people and state had broken, in a place they turned hopelessly irreparable.

Slum conditions are relative, making it difficult to define slums, control/stop their sprawl, or decide which to keep or remove. Slums can be shanties, tents or mere "cover," as that where homeless/primitive humans or animals may live (hence a slum dweller is derogatively called a slumdog). Or they can be expensive buildings with wrong measurements or location. Slums can be obvious from the start, or slowly, unnoticeably grow from planned communities that weren't maintained, supervised or planned enough to consider all future possibilities.

All slums will be cleared eventually, except those we keep and maintain for their historic, artistic, scientific, strategic ... value. Historic slums can be used for learning purposes, as we do with fossils and antiquities. Strategic slums with important location and extensive infrastructure can be transformed into centers for shopping/services/education/entertainment/recreation/etc., if their structure/infrastructure isn't moveable or "mobile."

However, when deciding which slums to remove, improve or transform, one shouldn't confuse well-planned central/vertical expansion with slums, the former being practical and widely used in government/management/commerce/communication facilities in populous areas.

As living conditions deteriorate in slums, inhabitants eventually abandon them, willfully, where other alternatives look better by comparison, thus automatically easing the state's job of clearing and properly re-planning neighborhoods, towns, and whole regions, leaving little trace of a country's "slummy" past.


Clearing slums makes it much easier, safer and cheaper to take any urban plan into action. It is a realistic long-term solution, as sooner or later ALL slums can grow insecure and inconvenient, where neither security nor convenience was considered in their design, if any.

Ideal housing standards are a "luxury" to some, compared to other living priorities. Yet eventually they become a "necessity" to save time, energy, health, money, resources, and quarrels over basic living necessities, thus helping citizens focus on, achieve and enjoy other things in life, while allowing the government to focus on other projects. Clearing slums frees space, protects and improves lives, and speeds up development. By comparing the advantages and disadvantages of slums, one can better understand the importance of slum clearance.

Clearing slums is most urgent when people's life is at risk, by moving inhabitants to a safe location as soon as possible. Even slums with no great value or serious risk need to be removed, as their very existence and the place they occupy cause more harm than good, for being overcrowded, poorly served, wrongly located, etc.

The root problem slums have is lack of SPACE & SAFETY, that all other problems stem from. Unfortunately, to live in slums, little can be done about safety and "nothing" about space, because when a structure has already been built without consideration for people's safety, movement, and future changes/expansion, no one can freely alter its fate when serious problems arise or a disaster strikes: fire, collapse, flood, infection, etc. Improvement of slums looks futile then compared to clearance of slums. Waiting for a scientific miracle to bring a different scenario can take forever, and those who expect much can only suffer frustration afterwards for not understanding the reality.


It's emotional attachment, to a place/person/era, that causes such type of wishful thinking (arguably, the root problem of all human problems, where emotional fetters lead to both mental & physical ones). Familiarity with risk may help expect, control and limit it but doesn't end it. People shouldn't long inhabit and get used/addicted to slums, even if they CAN which is natural (but not necessarily right, as early primitive humans were also used to sporadic shelters and a more mobile lifestyle).

Many slum dwellers refuse to move elsewhere, listing excuses like work, health, responsibilities, social ties, etc., and preferring to stay near the center (in big cities, where many slums are), driven by habit, timidity, selfishness, or herd instinct, even when they are neither happy nor useful to society there. They prefer a risky, or even costly, house in an in-town slum, to an affordable one in a well-planned out-of-town community. They refuse to commute an hour or two like many in organized urban communities do, favoring their "seemingly" easy slum life instead. Only the more curious and independent, who travel, study, or work in remote/many areas, are likely to accept the move, to save cost, time & energy, benefiting themselves, and society and environment too.

To many slum dwellers, familiarizing with and benefiting from chaos and lawlessness become the norm. Thus, consciously or not, they may lie, play the victim, break the law, spread anarchy, and challenge the state. They may have acquired the land by squatting, illegally obtain electricity/water supply from state-owned sources, use rivers for drainage, and above all bully and harm other inhabitants, turning the slum into a lawless jungle, crime spot, or cancerous tissue in society that needs to be removed.


In negotiation with slum dwellers before clearing slums, the state should be prepared for all the above problems, knowing when to be patient, flexible, supportive ... and decisive, for the good of state and citizens themselves.

The longer the government ignores slums, the more challenging its job becomes afterwards, that a quick solution becomes impossible. Some countries are "mostly" made of slums, which requires moving inhabitants out of entire slummy towns and regions to different ones. In such case, the government should help slum dwellers temporarily cope with life in slums, until they move to a more humane environment meeting basic living standards that every human deserves. 

The government can apply short-term strategies making life "bearable" for inhabitants in slums, simultaneously while making new urban communities elsewhere, which helps inhabitants become more hopeful, flexible, adaptable, and productive despite their living difficulties. Improving slums is a temporary solution to a temporary problem; thus politicians shouldn't sink in the quagmire of slums along with inhabitants while handing them the rescue rope. Improving slums consumes great energy and time, that are better spent on making alternative well-planned housing. According to a short-term plan, there should be

  • a limited budget for any slum's new projects (only vital ones for temporary purposes), unless the project will still be present after the clearance of slums;
  • deadline for new communities to be completed;
  • deadline for inhabitants to evacuate slums;
  • deadline for slums to be cleared.

The STEPS of clearing slums should be made in accordance with law & agreement between state, citizens and any private partners. Inhabitants can be compensated, with limits, depending on how long, legal, or vital their living there has been.

Compensation can be financial, according to the value of local land and real estate. Or it can be by relocation to alternative housing with a similar value. Or it can be by offering job opportunities, receiving certain services or privileges, or pardoning previous wrongdoings inhabitants may have committed.

When relocating slum inhabitants to another community, unless it's a brand new one, the original inhabitants of such community must agree on the move first. The new housing community should be suitable for the newcomers (the former slum dwellers), in terms of work experience, income level, and cultural and educational background, to avoid clashes between old and new inhabitants, and help new inhabitants adapt to their new life without bringing along any negative slum habits.

Any new community must have basic services (markets, repair stores, hospitals, police stations, etc.). It should also be close to inhabitants' old workplaces, or have new ones.

A thorough plan must be followed of the expenses, procedures, and vision of clearance and post-clearance slum renewal (whether transforming it into a new housing community, public park/service, government institute, road, etc.).

When clearing slums one should be aware of the stressful fragile environment they are in. All activities at the clearing site should be done safely. Demolishing high or several-story structures must be done carefully and guided by specialists during demolition, whether it's done manually, mechanically, or with explosives. Using fire or water pressure is not favored as it may cause more damage than mere clearance.

The following should be protected:

  • Structures: neighboring buildings, or structures within the slum with a certain value (historic/artistic/etc.).
  • Infrastructure: cables, pipes, etc., whose main valve must be shut off first. Traffic temporarily redirected. If any infrastructure parts have expired and need renewal, or are broken and need fixing, the problem should be solved before building any new structure. If it won't be used but still in good condition, it can be carefully moved and benefited from elsewhere.
  • People: workers, neighbors, pedestrians ...
  • Nature: soil, water sources, plants, etc. 
    • The soil shouldn't be removed, burned, or intoxicated, as it may be irrigated and planted later.
    • The ground shouldn't get too low, high or bumpy. 
    • Rivers, canals or lakes shouldn't be polluted.
    • Trees and gardens should be kept, esp. the older, bigger, or rarer ones.


Improving Slums

Living in Slums

Remote Areas

Regional Planning