The Mike Davis’ Book “The Planet of Slums”


In discussing the ecology of slums, Davis elaborates on the inequalities in the location of the rich and the poor in the urban areas. The location of slums is generally done in the poorest geology where the value of land is lowest. This way there would be no disputes over the ownership of land as the land has little value. The failure in choosing proper geology only results in a major disaster in case of calamities in the urban center.

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The location also contributes to the contamination of essential resources that these slum dwellers use. By virtue of poorly locating a slum, water is susceptible to pollution from sewerage systems and toxic dump sites. I am of the opinion that some poor people willingly opt for such locations because nobody will dispute their right to be on the land. This I find appalling as the responsible authorities take no action to resolve the degraded situation.

Main Body

There is an acute need for reorganization of the urban space to accommodate the poor in more suitable environments. There is an upsurge of migrants from rural to urban areas and recklessness of economic policies by which the poor have been demonized. It is because of their social niche that they have been left in incubators of diseases called slums. This however will only prevail with the maintenance of the status quo as authorities are oblivious of the need to correct this situation. They assume the fact that the rich and the poor exist on the same planet. It is not the existence of the disparity between the rich and the poor that I find most appalling but the fact that this scenario is replicating itself in many cities. The situation is getting worse with the increase in the size of the city and its economic situation.

In providing evidence of the slum situation, Davis uses statistical data from very reliable organizations such as the World Health Organisation (WHO). The use of figures and interconnectivity of data between cities portrays the world as a global village and the slum problem as being common to all cities. The world is defined by laws of deprivation which are common to all continents. Strategies towards the neo-liberalization of economies have only made the situation worse. The responsibility has been placed on the urban poor to provide for and elevate their families out of the slums.

This exploration of slums by Davis swings culpabilities in many ways. The view by neoliberals that slums are a source of easy and cheap labor for a developing economy is simply wrong. An informal economy is what results from the dumping of poor people in slums. The informal economy is made up of exploitative labor which suffers scarce jobs and low upward mobility. It is not enough to shun the slum situation, the human factors that result in the development of slums are correctable and should be acted upon. Governments should not burden the IMF and the World Bank with the responsibility of social duties.


In conclusion, Mike Davis has a very ferocious take on the slum situation in the urbanized world. It is however too harsh to blame the governments and NGOs for the situation. Some of the slum dwellers opt to be in the slums because of the cheap way of life despite the conditions. It is also too harsh to call slums the incubators of diseases while most of the diseases affecting slum dwellers are treatable and common even outside the slums. New or emergent diseases are not usually found to have started from the slums. Policymakers should stop being so ignorant of the effects of their negligence of the slum situation. The slums can have proper roads, sanitation, and provision of water and other essential resources through proper planning.

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