Islamshahr, Tehran: Coping and Responses to Infrastructure Gaps

By Syed Mohsin

Islamshahr is a city south of Tehran. It is one of the largest immigrant cities. It has a population of 357,171 and is very densely populated. According to Bayat, (1997) since the 1950s lots of families have steadily moved to the cities from the small towns and villages. The slums are located at the margin of big cities, near jobs centered on transport access and opportunities to squat. 86% of Iran’s urban population has access to sanitation (World Bank, 2012).

Prior to the Islamic Revolution there were fifty informal settlements in Tehran. To avoid paying unaffordable rent rural immigrants settled on vacant land and then they began to consolidate their informal settlement by bringing in electricity, gas, water, etc. After the Revolution, the lack of police enforcement allowed the poor to settle in unused homes and lands. Lack of public provision of basic services, electricity, running water, and sanitation, has led to deterioration in these settlements. Bayat says the squatters have established roads, opened clinics and store, and so little by little, the poor and job-less middle class started settling into them. As the collective effort of these settlers has deteriorated over the years, the community became poorer.

The informal economy of Iran is very large. Iran still is one of the countries through which heroine is exported into Europe. The people of Iran also suffer from major opium addiction and are ranked among the countries with the highest opiate rate addiction. There is also problem of synthetic drugs and money laundering. All these problems lead to Iran having more unemployed and poor people (CIA World Fact book, 2012).

The slums of Islamshahr should be recognized as part of the cities. Islamshahr is a small town so the policy spillover will be hindered. If the poor have to voice their rights and basic services, like they did in Iran, the conditions of the poor may deteriorate to a greater extent. Two fold policy recommendation follows. First, the government has to expand on infrastructure and land services because the private sector is not big enough to make a difference. Second, the process of replication of the community work to improve basic services and need more citywide linkages, as Mike Cohen argues and integration into the urban and national economy.

This article is a product of Professor Shagun Mehrotra’s Global Urban Environmental Policy class. Views expressed are entirely those of the individual author.


Bayat, Asef, (1997), Un-civil society: the politics of the informal people. Third World Quarterly 18.1, 53-72. Retrieved February 6, 2012, from

CIA World fact book. Retrieved February 6, 2012, from https://

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World Bank. (1991). Urban policy and economic development: an agenda for the 1990s. World Bank Policy Paper. Retrieved February 6, 2012, from


This article is a product of Professor Shagun Mehrotra’s Global Urban Environmental Policy class. Views expressed are entirely those of the individual author.