Measuring resource use in Informal Settlements in Developing Countries

Grantham Scholar Adriano Dias aims to develop a method that can capture stocks and flows of resource use in informal settlements while tackling limitations on data accessibility. 

The project

Informal Settlements* are the most rapidly expanding areas in terms of population growth and densification in the world. According to the UN more than 60% of the world population live within these areas, and this is a growing number. The numbers are expected to double in the next two decades [1].  Precarious physical conditions, social and economic inequalities, as well as, deprivation of basic services and rights, are present in a day-to-day basis. Despite this being recognized as an issue, inhabitants of this places are often criminalized and displaced or persecuted in measures that contrasts with the benefits and privileges of higher classes. This situation poses a threat to environmental sustainability, and contributes to the social unbalance, increasing inequality across the developing regions of the world.

Urban metabolic analysis is promoted by the UN as a tool to improve city resources and spatial management. The methodologies presented in literature, tend to point towards the necessity of reliable and accurate data, which is rarely a reality in the informality of developing world cities.

To connect the existing gaps between the quantitative and qualitative analysis within the Urban Metabolism framework, this project aims to develop a method that can capture stocks and flows of resource use in informal settlements, their ever-changing physical and social dynamics, while tackling limitations on data accessibility. Field work and remote sensing will be used to develop the necessary understanding from case studies in Latin America and Africa.

The focus of the studies will be the quantification of stocks and flows of construction materials used in dwellings and infrastructure, while exploring the unfairness in spatial distribution, the access to basic services and the power relations that drive the continuous inequality present in resource management within cities in the developing world.

* Favelas, shantytowns, shacks, villas miseria, bidonvilles, squatter settlements and other terms are commonly used names.

[1] UN-Habitat Slum Almanac 2015-2016 []

Check out my supervisors research pages here: Dr Danielle Densley Tingley


Dr Danielle Densley Tingley

Department of Civil and Structural Engineering – RISE (Resources, Infrastructure Systems and Built Environments Research Group)


Dr Seth Schindler

University of Manchester – School of Environment, Education and Development – Global Development Institute