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Lagos, Nigeria: Challenging and proposing alternatives to privatization
Port Louis, Mauritius: Supporting farmers with clean energy
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After 36,000 people lost their homes due to expansion of Tanzania’s Dar Es Salaam port, this community mobilised, securing 30 acres of land for resettlement and collecting about US$ 24,000 from its 300 members. The housing project has also improved access to water and sanitation and helped community members learn construction skills and participate in building their homes.
Summary | Full article
Led by women beedi (cigarette) workers, this movement formed cooperative housing societies, purchased land, mobilised to win government funding and has so far built 11600 homes. It plans to build a further 30,000 more homes for beedi workers, textile workers and other unorganised sector workers which will include infrastructure and services such as schools, a college, hospital, market, places of worship, roads, water and electricity.
This citizen’s platform emerged from movements that included those fighting house repossession. It won elections in 2014 and has advanced a progressive platform underpinned by a dynamic model of citizen engagement. On housing, it has limited licences for tourist apartments, fined owners of multiple properties who leave them empty and authorised municipal land in the city centre to be used by housing cooperatives.
This campaign is not only challenging Mauritius’ privately owned, non-renewable energy sector but putting forward a solar-powered, cooperative alternative, through which struggling farmers could generate energy to produce food in greenhouses. Their actions have thwarted plans for a new coal plant, improved government transparency, and acquired land to produce solar power when they get the go-ahead.
This coalition of citizen campaigners took over municipal government and initiated an energy revolution, based on 100% renewable energy, job creation and ending energy poverty. These activities are funded by profits derived from the largest private-public electric company in the country, and are informed by two public working groups bringing together specialists, environmental organisations, individuals, workers and coop members.
This community mobilisation took over local government in an oil company town, extracting higher taxes from Chevron, raising the minimum wage, bringing in rent control measures and reducing local crime through community policing. The Richmond Progressive Alliance, the coalition of community groups that led the struggle have secured a super-majority on council and created a model for municipal action.
These 9 experiences have been selected after an evaluation process of all the initiatives that applied to our Open Call. 32 of them are portrayed in the Atlas of Utopias. The evaluation was carried out by a multidisciplinary and multinational team of experts.
With the vote process we aim to trigger a collective learning process. Providing a platform that portrays transformative practices that we would like to see flourish all over the world.
Regardless of the vote results, we recognize the hard work, successes and victories of all 9 initiatives as well as the others portrayed in the Atlas of Utopias.
Transformative Cities aims to support these initiatives by giving them visibility in our website and allied organizations and partners, which includes:
Last but not least, the transformative Cities process is open and we aim to improve it along the way, please do contact us if have any suggestions or comments so the next edition contains even more collective intelligence.
“Utopia lies at the horizon. When I draw nearer by two steps, it retreats two steps. If I proceed ten steps forward, it swiftly slips ten steps ahead. No matter how far I go, I can never reach it. What, then, is the purpose of utopia? It is to cause us to advance.”
– Eduardo Galeano
The Atlas of Utopias is a global gallery of inspiring community-led transformation in water, energy and housing.
The atlas features 32 communities from 19 countries who responded to the Transformative Cities initiative which seeks to learn from cities working on radical solutions to our world’s systemic economic, social and ecological crises.
The atlas is by no means a comprehensive mapping of transformative practices. Transformation in one area such as water management does not necessarily mean transformative practice elsewhere in the city. Nevertheless, the atlas showcases inspiring stories of communities challenging entrenched power and boldly developing alternatives. These range from small villages in Bolivia to international cities like Paris that have even defeated multinational corporations and hostile national governments in order to deliver democratic, people-powered solutions on water, energy and housing.
The cases show how public solutions based on principles of cooperation and solidarity rather than competition and private profit have been more successful in meeting people’s basic needs – and perhaps just as importantly in creating a spirit of confidence and empowerment that strengthen communities for many other challenges. These initiatives demonstrate in practice that another world is possible, and is already happening.
The Transformative Cities initiative is learning from and with the communities to explore what has been most transformative in terms of power relations and social and ecological justice and the lessons from their experience. Nine cases in particular will be explored in more depth and then in the first half of April the public will be invited to vote on their favorites. The learning will also be turned into publications and different media formats to inspire and assist other communities involved in similar struggles.
This Alpine city reversed water privatisation, pioneered new forms of public participation and inspired a wave of cities across France to bring water back under public control. The city has saved users €20 million between 2000 and 2008 and advanced the right to water by ensuring no households pay more than 2.5% of their annual income on water services.
This water rights campaign in Africa’s largest city succeeded in stopping privatisation and when challenged by authorities developed an alternative roadmap for the city’s water systems. The Lagos campaign is the first major national campaign against privatisation in Nigeria campaign and has resulted in US$185 million in government funds allocated to ensuring clean water for Lagos’ people.
This indigenous community defied municipal political authorities and developed its own system for treating wastewater and preventing contamination to its local river. San Pedro Magisterio on the outskirts of Cochabamba in Bolivia built their own water treatment plant, improved environmental awareness in schools and showed the power of participatory community planning in building public services and developing community confidence.