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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

An innovative approach to physical infrastructure as a means to overcoming poverty

Priti Parikh

An innovative approach to physical infrastructure as a means to overcoming poverty

Key Research Questions:
1. What are the salient technical features of the alternative strategy of Slum Networking to provide affordable physical infrastructure ie water, sanitation, roads and electricity in low income groups?
2. What is the impact of physical infrastructure (facilities namely water, sanitation, roads and electricity) on poverty alleviation in terms of health, education, incomes and the quality of life?
3. What is the multiplier effect of physical infrastructure (facilities namely water, sanitation, roads and electricity) in terms of the subsequent investments by the community in its own shelter and habitat? Does land security have a role to play?

My work in the slum settlements of India prima facie suggests that technology inputs in relation to water, sanitation, electricity and roads alleviate poverty more effectively than the conventionally preferred interventions. In my research I actually test this premise in a slum settlement of India, where water and sanitation infrastructure has been the prime input. I have studied one such approach called ‘Slum Networking’ which aspires for better quality infrastructure,  using macro scale relationships and holistic technical optimisations to reduce costs below those of the so called `low cost’ compromises that are often propagated.

Summary of the presentation:
The presentation will start by giving a background to the case studies. The first case study is called Sanjaynagar and is a slum settlement of 181 families based in the city of Ahmedabad in the western state of Gujarat in India where physical infrastructure has been provided in a systematic manner. The second case study is in the same city and has no physical infrastructure provisions on a macro scale. Primary data collection involved carrying out household interviews in both the slum settlements.  Secondary data at the slum level and city level has also been collected from NGO’s, corporate sector and academic institutions in India.

The concept of Slum Networking and the technologies used to provide physical infrastructure in the settlement of Sanjaynagar will form the first third part of the presentation. I will also explain the innovative technology and community perceptions about these technologies.

The second part of the presentation then looks at the impacts of physical infrastructure on health, education and income levels. There will be two forms of comparisons i.e. before and after for the Sanjaynagar case study where infrastructure has been provided before 10 years. The results from Sanjaynagar settlement will also be compared with the other case study where there have been no interventions in physical infrastructure. The observations from secondary data will also be touched upon.

The third part of the presentation will start looking at the complex issue of investments being made in housing stock and improving the life style once facilities are made available. The issue gets complex as land tenure also plays a role in generating investments. The myth of non-affordability amongst low income groups is clearly just that “a myth,” in the context of Sanjaynagar Slum, where the Slum Networking project has acted as a catalyst generating huge resources from the community.



Course Overview


The need to engage in better problem definition through careful dialogue with all stakeholder groups and a proper recognition of context.


An ability to work with specialists from other disciplines and professional groups acknowledging that technical innovation and business skills also must be understood, nurtured and combined as precursors to the successful implementation of sustainable solutions.


An understanding of mechanisms for managing change in organisations so future engineers are equipped to play a leadership role.


An awareness of a range of assessment frameworks, sustainability metrics and methodologies such as Life Cycle Analysis, Systems Dynamics, Multi-Criteria Decision making and Impact Assessment.