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People living in slums know how to make the most of what they have. Credit: Charles Darwin University

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People living in slums know how to make the most of what they have. Credit: Charles Darwin University

Slums in the Global South hold the key to building circular cities in other developing countries, according to researchers from Charles Darwin University (CDU).

Slums, a term used to describe informal settlements within cities that often suffer from insecure land tenure, inadequate access to safe water, sanitation and housing, are often viewed as bearing societal, environmental and other costs.

“Developing a slum circular economy model for sustainable transformation in cities of the Global South”, published in Sustainability of naturelooks at circular economy (CE) habits in slums in a range of countries, including Mexico, South Africa, India, Brazil, Kenya, Bangladesh and Angola.

This study, led by CDU researchers Dr Matthew Abunyuah and Dr Michael Odi Erdyawo-Kwasi, aims to provide directions for future slum research and policy in the Global South.

This research comes at a time when the urban share of the world’s population has increased significantly over time, with significant growth expected in the developing world.

Dr. Abuniwa said this increasing trend in the urban share of the world’s population is putting enormous pressure on the environment and limited resources.

“Unfortunately, population growth is inevitably associated with increased demand for food, water and infrastructure,” Dr. Abuniwa said.

“These concerns have led to global calls to consider ways to slow and reduce resource use.”

The article presents a model that maps the activities of those living in slums and how the practices and processes underpinning slum life intersect with the core principles of citizenship education.

“Through this research, we identified the three core elements of slums, namely livelihoods, housing and spaces, and then explained the synergies between them and the principles of citizenship education,” said Dr. Abuniwa.

“Overall, everyday practices in slums reflect the ten elements that underpin the circular economy, which places a strong emphasis on the complex links between slum life and the principles of citizenship education.”

“Evidence suggests that slum dwellers in a range of regions, including Durban in South Africa and Lima in Peru, make a living collecting, sorting and screening waste to help identify recyclable materials that can be sold for income,” Dr Udi Erdeau said. Quasi.

“In India’s largest slum in Dharavi, waste sorting and recycling accounts for 60-80% of waste recycling in Mumbai, and waste pickers contribute to closing the loop through the recycling and reuse chain, which is an integral part of CE and building Circular cities.

“The findings also support the argument that the ideas rooted in environmental education are not new, demonstrating that the basic principles are already deeply rooted and inextricably linked to many of the daily life-making strategies of slum dwellers,” Dr. Udi Erdyawo-Kwasi said.

The research also showed that slum residents have a high level of knowledge of CE practices and experiences and show a high commitment to promoting circular waste design interventions.

This is particularly important when considering the potential for developing relationships between urban planning authorities and slum residents to help promote circular cities in developing countries.

“We can say that slum dwellers with knowledge and experience in environmental education will be active stakeholders rather than passive ones, which will help with participation levels,” Dr. Abuniwa said.

“Through this research, we have activated the potential of the urban poor and marginalized communities to help catalyze activities capable of accelerating the realization of the circular cities agenda in developing countries.”

more information:
Matthew Abunywa et al., Developing a Slum Circular Economy Model for Sustainable Transformation in Cities of the Global South, Sustainability of nature (2023). doi: 10.1038/s41893-023-01176-8

Magazine information:
Sustainability of nature

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