Richard Sliuzas from the University of Twente in the Netherlands in this lecture outlines how new technologies means new approaches to mapping, in particular slum mapping, and the implications of this.

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"Implications of developments in geo-spatial technologies for slum dwellers" - Richard Sliuzas 


Slum mapping is a technical process with important socio-political dimensions – map legends, processes and access to spatial information reflect political choices and views related to the legitimacy of urban development and entitlements of citizens. In some contexts, slum areas are not mapped because they may be considered illegal, or the topographic maps may not be updated with a high enough frequency to adequately reflect the current realities including rapidly developing slum areas. Mapping has become increasingly emancipated especially over the last 15 years; the making of maps, including maps of slum areas, is no the exclusive domain of mapping professionals – surveyors, cartographers, engineers, planners, etc. from both public or private organizations – but it can and is increasingly being performed by citizens and NGOs. Some of the major changes and developments on the technical side of mapping include: the increasing supply of commercially produced, very high resolution (VHR) satellite images with global coverage; commercial and non-profit internet based image/map delivery systems ( e.g. Google Earth, Google Maps, Bing Maps, OpenStreetMap, Wikimapia etc.); the use of airborne and terrestrial LIDAR systems; GPS; the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs – sometimes known as drones or Remotely Piloted Vehicles); increasingly sophisticated software tools, including open source tools, for dense image matching, image based object extraction and cloud based processing solutions. From the socio-political perspective slum dwellers and communities, often in association with NGOs (e.g. Slum/Shack Dwellers International, Pamoja Trust, OpenStreetMap, etc.) focused on poverty, shelter, infrastructure and governance issues, are now able to exploit many hitherto inaccessible technical tools to create and maintain spatial databases of their own communities. Propositions for addressing the issue:

  • To be effective slum mapping requires a socio-technical approach
  • Effective slum mapping for monitoring and upgrading should engage public-private-civil actors to co-produce and share basic spatial data on slum areas
  • Slum communities should be encouraged to develop and knowledge and skills about mapping processes that will facilitate their participation in policy development related to slum improvement programmes
  • Slum mapping should not be seen as an end in its own right but as a process through which the capacity to develop and maintain an integrated spatial database of physical and socio-economic characteristics of (deprived) urban neighborhoods for planning and management purposes.


Richard is an urban planner, specialised in the use of geo-spatial technologies for urban planning and management. He has worked in planning education and research since joining ITC in December 1983, where he is currently Associate Professor. His research interests and activities are focused on the use of geo-spatial technologies in spatial planning for sustainable urban development with an emphasis on issues related to urban informality, urban poverty alleviation and the relationship between spatial planning and disasters. He is now supervising PhD students working on: slum mapping methods in Indian cities; slum upgrading and governance in Ahmedabad; land use and transport integration in Hanoi and Wuhan; social-ecological resilience in Rafsanjan, Iran; integrated urban and flood modelling in Kampala and Kigali; the use of UAVs for slum mapping in Kigali. He has supervised PhD’s working on disasters and urban spatial planning issues in Lalitpur, Nepal and Medellin, Colombia; participatory spatial planning tools in Tripoli, Lebanon; spatial planning and surface water management in Wuhan, China; economic cluster development in Beijing, China; urban village development in Shenzhen, China; spatial analysis of vulnerability to climate change and climate variability in various developing country contexts. Richard has worked in numerous international development projects in: China, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Vietnam. From 2012-2013 he was team leader of the Integrated Flood Management in Kampala project undertaken under the UN-Habitat Cities and Climate Change Initiative. He is currently coordinator of the Resilience and Risks Management Strategies thematic group of the Association of European Schools of Planning (AESOP).


Kohli, D., Warwadekar, P., Kerle, N., Sliuzas, R., & Stein, A. (2013). Transferability of Object-Oriented Image Analysis Methods for Slum Identification. Remote Sensing, 5(9), 4209–4228. doi:10.3390/rs5094209

Kohli, D., Kerle, N., & Sliuzas, R. V. (2012). Local ontologies for object - based slum identification and classification. In: Proceedings of GEOBIA 2012, the 4th Geobia : Geographic Object - Based Image Analysis , May 7-9, 2012 Rio de Janeiro Brazil. Pp. 201-205.

Sliuzas, R.V., Kuffer, M, and Masser, F.I..(2010) The spatial and temporal nature of urban objects. in Jurgens, C. and Rashed, T. (eds), Remote Sensing of Urban and Suburban Areas, Series: Remote Sensing and Digital Image Processing, Vol. 10 Springer Geosciences Abbott, J. (2002). A method-based planning framework for informal settlement upgrading. Habitat International, 26(3), 317–333.

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