Slums’ Uniqueness May Be Key to Their Development

November 14, 2016

Tara Bansal ’17 wants you to picture what she saw in India. “Imagine standing in the middle of the bustling streets of Bangalore. On one side of the road you see a brand-new luxury apartment complex. Across the street, hidden in the shadows, is a slum. A mixture of tents and poles, buckets and cooktops, this is where millions of people in Bangalore live. And Bangalore is just one example of a city in the global south where the urban poverty is increasing at an unprecedented rate.”

Bansal used to think that most slums were basically alike. Her Bass Connections project team went to Bangalore, India, to study slum typology using satellite data, surveys and interviews.

Bansal and Edward Balleisen, vice provost of interdisciplinary studies, spoke at a Duke Forward event in New York to highlight how Duke’s interdisciplinary approach to research, education and knowledge in the service of society is moving the world forward.

As Bansal learned, slums can be vastly different, which in turn affects how they may or may not receive the services they need. “In one, you might see a demographic that is half Hindu and half Muslim, which impacts community engagement and the way they work collectively with the government, whereas another slum down the road might be in the middle of electrical power lines so dangerous that it will never be sanctioned,” she explained.

We hope that our research continues to inform the way that people look at slums so they understand that the uniqueness of slums might be the key to their development.

Led by Anirudh Krishna and Erik Wibbels, the project is the largest and most comprehensive study on slum typology in the world.

Duke Forward is a seven-year, comprehensive fundraising campaign that aims to raise more than $3.25 billion by June 30, 2017. It supports priorities across Duke’s ten schools, Duke Health and a range of university programs and initiatives, including Bass Connections.

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