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Atlas to reveal reasons of poverty

New Delhi, India: CHF International, a nonprofit organisation, is developing an urban poverty atlas as part of a programme called Slum Communities Achieving Livable Environments with Urban Partners (SCALE-UP).

CHF’s goal in mapping slums is to provide a more complete picture of why poverty exists in certain areas and how conditions can be improved. For now, SCALE-UP, with the help of about USD 9 million in funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, focuses on three cities in India—Bangalore, Nagpur and Pune—as well as three in Ghana—its capital Accra and its twin port cities  Sekondi and Takoradi. Some mapping work has also begun in Haiti.

CHF International is not the only organisation to create urban poverty atlases. The United Way of New York City and the Community Service Society of New York created a map of that city in 2008. The US Census Bureau has a map of the country based on 2005 census data, whereas the World Bank has a comprehensive series of maps for countries worldwide.

About urban poverty mapping, Brian English, country director of slum upgrading, urbanisation and climate change initiatives in India for CHF, said, “There is not a lot of granular information on poverty and slums in the cities we are working in. Often, when a local government designates an area as a slum it has certain obligations to that locale, such as providing access to health care, water and sanitation services. So until the government is ready to accept their obligations to provide services to these populations they won’t collect any details on them or include them in official statistics.”

About the map making, English explained that the first stage in creating a poverty atlas is to identify the communities that meet the criteria for being considered a slum and to plug their locations into GIS software. This enables CHF and its partners to analyse data and query conditions in a particular community. CHF is likewise using satellite imagery and survey-grade handheld GPS devices to ensure the accuracy of its maps. It also experimented with open-source platforms like Walking Papers that allow anyone to add detail to maps and upload them to wiki-style, Web-based OpenStreetMap.

CHF’s Pune atlas, created with help from local NGO Maharashtra Social Housing and Action League (MASHAL), is one of the organisation’s most complete projects, with 477 slum neighborhoods identified. CHF has also been able to drill down and perform socioeconomic surveys within 360 of the slums, according to English.

Source: Scientific American