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Rice University

Publication Date

Fall 2016

Program Name

Nepal: Development and Social Change


“Squatting,” or residing on public land illegally, is a modern urban phenomenon in developing countries. This phenomenon is attributed to rapid urbanization due to rural-to-urban migration, which leads to rising costs of living, exclusionary housing markets, a lack of affordable housing and urban inequality. Ultimately, unplanned urban growth encourages the formation and expansion of squatter settlements. These settlements are commonly characterized as slum due to the impoverished living conditions, highly congested spaces and lack of public services (water, sanitation, education, etc.) Without land certificates, squatters are denied their right to adequate housing and land security, which should be protected by the government. The growth of these settlements is not a natural process, but rather a byproduct of ineffective urban planning through weak governance. In Kathmandu, the government frequently attempts to evict and relocate squatters, but squatters resist relocation and demand for land rights. This study is conducted through semi-structured interviews with representatives from government agencies, squatter settlements and development organizations to identify and explain the processes and motives behind government-driven resettlement plans, responses to these plans by squatters and effective community mobilization strategies for urban development. Conflicting perspectives between how government views squatters and how squatters view themselves exemplify how squatter settlements react to government intervention. Through the perspective of squatters, this paper critically analyzes the role of government to build sustainable cities that include and uplift disadvantaged populations, including residents of squatter settlements.


Asian Studies | Place and Environment | Social Control, Law, Crime, and Deviance | Urban Studies and Planning


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