Count Me In: Surveying for Tenure Security and Urban Land Management

Many different people and organizations want information about settlements but collecting such information is never a neutral exercise, particularly in poorer areas. People in such settlements live in very difficult conditions. There are few facilities and amenities, and life is hard. Often their right to live where they are is very uncertain, and they fear being told to move elsewhere. Many have already been forced to move “ some more than once. Justifiably, many people do not trust what others are planning for them. Others are afraid that being counted means having to pay tax, or fear their landlords, who may not want illegal renting or subdivision to become known.
All in all, counting and being counted, surveying and measurement, are linked with official control, so are treated with great suspicion. Many people respond by trying to stay invisible, to keep œunder the radar?. Some simply avoid being surveyed. Others refuse to cooperate, provide false information, or even try to stop the survey from taking place at all. Many who cooperate do so reluctantly, in the hope that it might, somehow, bring a better life. So it is not surprising that the more traditional, extractive information gathering methods such as the national census, the official cadastre, specialist surveys, commissioned research and official mapping projects often fail to obtain the types of information needed for successful urban management, upgrading and development purposes.
The result is mistrust on one side, and frustration at the lack of usable, relevant data on the other. This situation is not conducive to the promotionof sustainable and equitable urban development. Not only does the necessary information fail to become available; there is also an absence of meaningful involvement by the residents in the development process. The consequence of this is, often, increasing marginalization, insecurity and potential social conflict.