The efforts of a federation of slum and shanty dwellers to secure land and improve housing in Moratuwa

Celine D’Cruz, Gordon Mcgranahan and Upali Sumithre
Date of publication: 
October 2009

In Moratuwa, Sri Lanka, the tsunami disaster of 2004 forced new ways of working on both organizations of the urban poor and local authorities. Building on this experience, an emerging federation of the urban poor (built on community savings groups) has been collaborating with local authorities to secure land and adequate housing in two deprived settlements unaffected by the tsunami. This article examines these recent initiatives and their citywide relevance. The federation (the Women’s Development Bank Federation) receives support from a local NGO (Janarukula) and is affi liated with an international confederation (Slum Dwellers International), whose principles are also evident in these improvement efforts. One of the two settlements is located on the periphery of Moratuwa, where land is plentiful and existing plots can be upgraded. The other is a central settlement, where land is scarcer and the federation has opted for multi-storey residences. Securing community control over the multi-storey development has proved diffi cult and has required far tighter collective action. Success in dense settlements is important, however, if the federation is to meet its goal of creating a citywide strategy.