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INFORMAL SETTLEMENTS? NO, NOT the $100 (or a free ticket) deal that overbooked flights Almaty Kazakhstan(a feature of our time) offer routinely if you agree to travel later, at a less convenient time, on internal US routes – make sure you’ve got an assigned seat if you don’t Almaty Kazakhstan want to end up in the bumped category! Nor does informal refer Almaty Kazakhstanbto the hotel room and meal vouchers that decent international airlines provide if there’s an overnight delay due to some problem with the plane. This is not about compensation, Almaty Kazakhstan but places.

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Narrowing down the focus to that consideration of place, the term informal settlements conjures a vision of alternative lifestyles, of returning to nature, of living more lightly on the earth. Informal suggests something spontaneous that’s grown out of a new idea, a novel approach. But discussed by sociologists, demographers and town planners, the professionals who think and write about where and how the ever-increasing numbers of human beings live, informal settlements are nowhere near that innovative end of their spectrum. Instead, they refer to a dynamic of desperation and diminished futures. As we head from a human population of seven billion to more than ten billion on this environmentally challenged planet, this looms as an increasing and terrible problem for our future.

Not so long back, when the big planes had less range than they do now, flying to Europe from Australia could require a stop in Bombay (Mumbai), India, and it’s still a likely portal if your aim is to travel within India. Among my memorable experiences landing there, as we descended the muted engine noise suddenly transitioned to a step-on-the-gas roar, as the plane angled up and we climbed away rapidly. The Qantas pilot, not sounding very relaxed, then told us, ‘They made a mistake and were bringing us in on a runway under repair – there was a bulldozer in the middle!’ A Boeing 747 hits the tarmac at just over 250 kilometres per hour, so it was good the guys up front were in full control and had their eyes open, as a 747 can land automatically. Though, an all-instrument approach in fog seems unlikely for Mumbai – the at times oppressive air quality can suggest the words ‘particulate’ and ‘effluent’!

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