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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A shanty town (also called a squatter settlement) is a slum settlement (sometimes illegal or unauthorized) of impoverished people who live in improvised dwellings made from scrap materials: often plywood, corrugated metal, and sheets of plastic. Shanty towns, which are usually built on the periphery of cities, often do not have proper sanitation, electricity, or telephone services.

Shanty towns are mostly found in developing nations, or partially developed nations with an unequal distribution of wealth (or, on occasion, developed countries in a severe recession). In extreme cases, shanty towns have populations approaching that of a city. One billion people, one-sixth of the world's population, now live in shanty towns.[1]



Since construction is informal and unguided by urban planning, there is a near total absence of formal street grids, numbered streets, sanitation networks, electricity, or telephones. Even if these resources are present, they are likely to be disorganized, old or inferior. Shanty towns also tend to lack basic services present in more formally organized settlements, including policing, medical services, and fire fighting. Fires are a particular danger for shanty towns not only for the lack of fire fighting stations and the difficulty fire trucks have traversing the absence of formal street grids,[2] but also because of the close proximity of buildings and flammability of materials used in construction[3] A sweeping fire on the hills of Shek Kip Mei, Hong Kong, in late 1953 left 53,000 squatter dwellers homeless, prompting the colonial government to institute a resettlement estate system.

Shanty towns have high rates of crime, suicide, drug use, and disease. However the observer Georg Gerster has noted (with specific reference to the invasões of Brasilia), "squatter settlements [as opposed to slums], despite their unattractive building materials, may also be places of hope, scenes of a counter-culture, with an encouraging potential for change and a strong upward impetus."[4]


Shanty towns are present in a number of countries. The largest shanty town in Asia is the Dharavi, in Mumbai, India,[5][6] while the largest in Africa is Khayelitsha in Cape Town, South Africa.

Other countries with shanty towns include India, South Africa (where they are often called squatter camps) or imijondolo, Australia (mainly in Aboriginal areas), the Philippines (often called squatter areas), Venezuela (where they are known as barrios), Brazil (favelas), West Indies such as Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago (where they are known as Shanty town), Mexico (where they are knows as Ciudad Perdida), Peru (where they are known as pueblos jóvenes), and Haiti, where they are referred to as bidonvilles. There are also shanty town population in countries such as Bangladesh[7] and the People's Republic of China.[8][9][10]

Regional names

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Simple English

Shanty towns are small towns in the outskirts of many cities – especially in third world countries. Often of low cost, with houses badly built with plywood, corrugated metal, sheets of plastic, cardboard or any available material. Often irregular structures good enough to keep the rain away or to protect from the summer sun. Pets and animals are often left to roam for food and water.

Lack of clean water, sanitation and toilets often make people, especially children, more exposed to illnesses such as hepatitis and cholera.

Many are built on land without a permit and often have no roads, numbered street, electricity or telephone lines. Some homes in shanty towns have some services but they are unkept and pose health and fire hazards. Sometimes shanty towns can take up whole parts of a city and may include millions of dwellers – such as in the cities of Brazil.

Many shanty town settlements are built on the banks of rivers and as a result the residents suffer the effect of floods or from industrial toxins in the water. Some are built close to rubbish dumps.

Residents of shanty town often have poor health, lack education, high crime, suicides and shorter life expectancy.

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