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Informal settlement planning – land use, climate and energy

–The cases of Guayaquil, Dar es Salaam and Pune

Research project financed by Sida, Department for Research Cooperation

2010 - 2012

Background and objectives


Informal settlements or slums are a prevailing mode of urban development across the globe. An estimated 1 billion of the worlds 3.25 billion urban dwellers live in environments classified as slums. The issue of slums or informal settlements is of major importance when studying and trying to address concurrent urbanisation. In this document informal settlements refer to settlements that have been developed outside the formalised system of urban development.

Informal settlement development is not a random activity based on the action of single individuals. It is a well organised and collective effort that is planned in advance and accomplished in a manner of precision and discipline. Informal settlement development is “rational” resource management for the squatters and, in addition, for many other groups as well. Informal settlement development also demands the consent of the local elite. One could assume that the general processes are common or bear similar characteristics despite country and locality where they occur. Such “general factors” affecting development are scarcity of land integrated into existing urban infrastructures, value of land as well as increased urbanisation at large.

There is a need to understand the logic behind slum formation and everyday life when carrying out public interventions. If the logic behind slum formation and the principles of the routines of everyday life in slum areas are not understood in a proper way devastating damage can be inflicted upon the dwellers.

According to the UN millennium development goals, the aim is to achieve a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum-dwellers by 2020 (UNDP 2005).

The eventual formalisation of slum areas has many advantages, both for the dwellers and the authorities. For the slum dwellers, legalisation increases their security dramatically by offering a long-term perspective and possibilities to secure investments in their own housing. For authorities, legalisation renders tax collection possible. Legalised ownership is also fundamental as a basic security for funding agencies providing loans to slum dwellers.  However, the regularisation of informal settlements results in several problems. It is normally much more costly to provide infrastructure and services after an area has been built than to provide this initially as is done in formally planned areas. Moreover, informal settlements tend to be low-rise – thus contributing to the urban sprawl – leading to inefficient land use which, in turn, leads to higher transportation costs and more extensive and costly infrastructure (Jenkins et al. 2007).

The predicted effects of future climate change – including increasing temperatures, raised sea levels and higher frequency of extreme weather conditions – will have severe consequen­ces in tropical and sub-tropical climates (Simms & Reid 2006). According to the latest report of IPCC (IPCC 2007), global air temperatures are expected to rise between 1.1 and 6.4°C over the next century and the number of heat waves is very likely to increase.

Informal settlements are built with little consideration of the climate, which generally results in poor microclimate having adverse effects on human comfort, both in the outdoor environment and indoors. Urban dwellers are thus exposed to the combined effect of global and urban warming and in warm climates this leads to an increased number of heat-related illnesses. The urban poor in informal settlements are especially vulnerable due to sub-standard housing, high population densities and lack of green areas (Harlan et al. 2006). The poor thermal comfort in urban areas also leads to an increased use of air-conditioning and consequently increased energy use. This, in turn, leads to higher emissions of green house gases and a contribution to the global warming.


The overall aim of this project is to understand the process of informal settlement planning and its consequences on land use, climate and energy. In a long term perspective the acquired knowledge can contribute to improve planning which is more cost-efficient as it makes it possible to provide higher densities and consequently more efficient infrastructure, a more attractive environment through improved microclimate, lower energy use, especially for cooling.

The specific aims of this study include:

  • identifying the logic and mechanisms behind slum formation and informal settlements development including the various actors in the fields of land spotting and land division, building assistance, technical services and security as well as various commercial, social and cultural services,
  • identify how the community is organised in terms of territorial units as well as decision making,
  • analyse the urban environment, microclimate and energy use in buildings in (consolidated) informal settlements,
  • simulate and quantify the effect of informal settlements on microclimate and energy use in order to suggest solutions for upgrading of existing slums as well as newly planned areas.

Research plan

The main research question is: How does the process of informal settlement planning work and what are the consequences for land use, microclimate and energy use. More specifically the research will try to answer the following questions:

  • How is informal settlement development carried out in terms of choosing appropriate land, dividing the land, design and provision of infrastructure?
  • How is the community organised in terms of decision making at settlement level?
  • What characterises the environment and microclimate in informal settlements and how big is the energy use in buildings
  • How can informal areas be improved and new areas designed to provide a good microclimate and low energy use.

Study areas

The project will focus on informal settlements in three cities: Guayaquil, Ecuador, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Pune, India.

Guayaquil, Ecuador

Guayaquil is the biggest city in Ecuador with about 3 million inhabitants. The major part of the inhabitants lives in slums. The question of urban development in Guayaquil is not much studied due to the fact that squatting seems to be considered a vested interest of the ruling elite despite the fact that such urban development is “illegal” in terms of existing laws and regulations. Urban development strategies that would benefit public and common interests in a better and fairer way should be drawn up, but local researchers do not seem to be in the position to accomplish necessary research for the design and accomplishment of such strategies. If carried out by external (foreign) researchers, the study of urbanisation in Guayaquil could be of great benefit to the local community, but it could also shed light on global urbanisation patterns and the particular role of squatting and slum development.

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Dar es Salaam is the biggest city of Tanzania with some 3 million inhabitants, some 70 percent of which living in slum areas. In the case of Tanzania, the indigenous population is a mixture of different tribes and languages. Dar es Salaam has doubled its population from 1.5 million to 3 million in 20 years. There are about 100 unplanned settlements in Dar es Salaam and 80% of all residential houses are found in these settlements. An estimated 70% of the city’s population live in informal settlements.

Pune, India

Pune in India is the 8th larges city in the country with a population in the metropolitan area of about 5 million inhabitants and with a rapid urbanisation. Slums have developed all around the city, entailing some 35% of the population (Kapoor et al. 2004). The population is very varied in terms of cast-belonging, languages, religions and ethnics.


One informal settlement in each of the three cities will be chosen. The criterion is that each area should be at least 10 years old and have at least 5000 inhabitants.  The time table for the project is shown below.
A mixture of quantitative and qualitative research methods will be used.

Semi-structured interviews and questionnaires

The urban planning and land acquisition process in the three cities will be studied by conducting semi-structured interviews with municipal planners, community leaders, settlement developers (formal and informal), researchers and other professionals involved. Questionnaires will be used in order to investigate the energy use in buildings in both informal and formal settlements.

Computer simulations

The urban microclimate and energy use in buildings will be simulated using the software tools ENVI-met, a micro-scale simulation tool (Bruse 2009), and Derob-LTH (EBD 2009).

Research seminars

Each case study will end with a seminar organised in cooperation with each counterpart. At the end of the project a final seminar will be organised in cooperation with Housing Policy & Development of UN-Habitat, Nairobi, Kenya. At all seminars representatives from all counterparts will participate. 

Research partners

Urban and Rural Development (SOL) ( was formed in January 2006. The field of interest covers “North” as well as “South”, with special emphasis on Sweden, the Nordic counties, the Baltic region, Africa and Southeast Asia.
Contact person: Christer Bengs professor in landscape architecture, focusing on strategic planning. He has specialized in urban and regional planning and development.
E mail:

Housing Development & Management (HDM) ( at the dept. of Architecture & Built Environment, Lund University has a over 25 years experience from cooperation with developing countries. HDM undertakes research and training from an international perspective: planning, design, use and management, and the connection between dwellings and their surroundings. HDM runs Promesha, a capacity building programme financed by Sida aiming at improving housing conditions for low-income groups in seven Latin American countries.
Contact person: Erik Johansson, a PhD on climate-conscious urban design
E mail:
Contact person: Maria Isabel Rasmussen, PROMESHAs programme coordinator
E mail:

Environmental Psychology, at Architecture & Built Environment, ( at the dept. of Architecture & Built Environment, Lund University focuses its research on how human beings experience and are influenced of their surroundings. This includes both the physical and social environment and the interaction between these two. The general research approach is holistic. Docent Thorbjörn Laike, PhD in environmental psychology, is the head of the department and involved in research projects related to human control of lighting and energy use.
Contact person: Thorbjörn Laike
E mail:

Instituto de Planificación Urbana y Regional (IPUR) ( was created at Universidad Católica de Santiago de Guayaquil (UCSG) in 1989. It is responsible for re­search, teaching, capacity building and technical cooperation in fields of urban, regional and environment planning. It works for sustainable urban development in the Guayaquil metro­politan area. Activities include education, capacity building, technical support, and spreading of information and knowledge. IPUR, one HDM’s counterparts in the PROMESHA pro­gramme, has developed a special interest in the fields of thermal comfort and sustainable building.
Contact person: Ivette  Arroyo, director of the institute
E mail:

Ministry of Lands and Human Settlements Development is the main institutional framework for human settlements development in Tanzania.
Contact person: Dr. Tumsifo Nnkya, Director of Housing.

Centre for Environment and Sustainable Infrastructure Development, College of Engineering, Pune, India.
Contact person: Dr. Pratap Raval