Recently an Indian activist who lived in city slums to help thousands of poor people gain durable protection from eviction was awarded an international prize for defending the basic right to housing. The Geneva-based Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) gave its 2004 Housing Rights Defender award to Rajeev George in recognition of his 12-year struggle to give slum dwellers in Indian city Indore a foothold in urban planning. The association set up by George notably uses digital mapping and satellite imagery to make detailed surveys of land held by poor people, helping to prevent them being evicted due to city redevelopment.
George said he had tried to work with slum dwellers to help them understand and take part in the city planning process, and eventually convinced local bureaucrats and other inhabitants in a “non-threatening manner” to listen to them. “We made information available to the planning authorities and to the slum dwellers, so they were able to negotiate in a much more informed and confident manner,” he said. George said the digital maps were verifiable and had also helped to sway city authorities. “We’ve been helping groups in other parts of the country to intervene in their city master plans, like Hyderabad and Lucknow,” he said.