OPP – Community Participation and Modification in Sanitation Technology

1. Community Participation and Technology

Two concepts are central for the understanding of the Sanitation Programme of the Orangi Pilot Project.

1.1 Community Participation

The Sanitation Programme is a result of a need to develop lane organizations in Orangi and not the other way round. The concept is spelt out in Dr. Akhtar Hameed Khan’s 25 February 1980 note on Welfare Work. He says, “If social and economic organizations grow and become strong, services and material conditions, sanitation, schools, clinics, training, employment, will also begin to improve”.

1.2 Modifications In Technology And Implementation Procedures

Standard engineering technology and implementation procedures, the product of the traditional client, engineer, contractor relationship, have to be constantly modified to suit the new system where the user, organizer and implementer are one, and often they have little or no technical knowledge or artisanal skill.

This paper seeks to illustrate these two concepts.

2. Pre-OPP Solutions to The Sanitation Problem

Before the OPP’s low cost sanitation programme was accepted by the residents of Orangi, three solutions to the problem were commonly used.

2.1 The Bucket Latrine

The bucket latrine usually consisted of an Exide battery shell, which used to be placed in the toilet. The sweeper would remove this shell, throw out the excreta into the natural nullah or street, and then replace the container. The waste water in this case flowed out into a cesspool or into the street. Apart from creating severe environmental pollution and health hazards, the owners had to pay about Rs 15 per month to the sweeper who in most cases was difficult to find.

2.2 Soak-Pits

The more affluent residents dug soak-pits in their lanes. These were connected only to the foul water system of the house and their cost to the user varied from Rs 1,800 to Rs 3,000. The waste water still flowed out into the street. These soak-pits usually filled up in 2 or 3 years, after which they filled up after every three to six months. The cost of having a soak-pit empted by the KMC truck mounted pumps was Rs 75. This was a major drain on the people’s resources and at the same time did not solve the waste water problem.

2.3 Sewerage Line

Some residents of Orangi also laid sewerage lines from their houses to the nearest natural nullab. It was seldom that a whole lane or mohallah undertook this work together. In the absence of community organizations, we find that many parallel drainage lines have been laid in many lanes. The work carried out also suffered from technical shortcomings, and was in most cases substandard. Consequently the drains clogged up frequently or their different elements weathered badly. However, in spite of these shortcomings, this system cleared the streets of both excreta and waste water, and there was no recurring expenditure to maintain it.

The OPP felt that if an effective lane organization could be developed, and if the right kind of technical support and tools could be provided, and the lane residents trained to use them, then an underground drainage system could be developed in Orangi.

3. OPP’s Methodology for Development of Lane Organization and Technical Support

OPP’s methodology for developing lane organizations and technical support has been explained in detail in OPP publications. Briefly it consists of 4 stages

3.1 Motivation

In this stage the OPP social motivators hold meetings of lane residents and explain, with the help of slides, posters and pamphlets, the benefits of the OPP low cost sanitation programme. They stress that without the formation of such an organization the OPP cannot give any technical assistance.

3.2 Organization

In this stage the organization is born and it chooses its lane manager, who on behalf of the lane formally applies to the OPP for assistance. There is no standard structure for the organization that emerges, and it varies from lane to lane.

3.3 Technical Inputs By The OPP

The OPP technical staff surveys the lane, establishes benchmarks, prepares plans and estimates (of both labour and materials) and hands over this data to the lane managers.

3.4 Implementation

The lane managers collect the money from the people, call meetings to sort out any sociological problems which may occur due to the undertaking of this work, receive tools from the OPP, and make arrangements for carrying out the work. The OPP staff give top supervision to this work.

Case studies of sociological and technical problems and the way in which the lane organizations have dealt with them, have been prepared by our managers, and some have been published in the Orangi Gazette.

4. Managable Social Organization Determines Physical Size Of Sanitation Units

To organize people on a large scale without existing smaller organizations is impossible. The organization unit therefore was limited to a lane. As such physical planning was done for one lane at a time. Invariably in the beginning only those lanes accepted the programme which were near a natural nullah or could easily discharge into it.

5. Educating The People

As no central supervision and controlling agency was looking after the work being done, and as people in many cases worked themselves, the only way of guarantying the quality of work was by educating the people. However, people who are financing and managing the work themselves cannot be forced to listen to advice, and their confidence in the OPP could only develop over a “prolonged association”. As such certain substandard work was done in the lanes by the people, and in mid 1982 there was a lull in the progranme. As a result an evaluation of the concept, design and implementation procedure became necessary.

6. Evaluation

An evaluation of the OPP low cost sanitation programme was carried out by us in September 1982, and it showed up 3 main weak points. In addition, there were the criticisms and proposals of our UN experts which had to be answered.

7. The Three Weak Points And The Process Of Overcoming Them

7.1 The Design Concept

As per the initial designs of the OPP, the sewerage, along with the excreta was discharged into the open nullah. All such nullahs have high density housing on both sides. This meant that the problem of the lanes was simply being shifted to the nullahs, creating serious health hazards. In addition many sewerage lines would clog up occasionally, and as such had to be cleaned out. This problem was studied, and it was discovered that due to a lack of water the proper flow of sewerage in the lines was not possible.

To overcome these 2 problems, it was decided to place a one chamber septic tank or “haudi” as it is known in Orangi, between every connection and the sewerage line. This prevents the solids from flowing out into the drain. The size and design of the “haudi” was determined not as per any engineering standards, but by its cost to the user. It had to be of a cost that the people could afford. Because of these unorthodox design criteria, the first haudis were put under observation, and are still being monitored. The results are interesting and we hope to publish them soon.

To popularize the “haudi” and educate the people on this subject, a lot of meetings were held, posters were prepared and posted on walls in the lanes, and leaflets were distributed. The “haudi” is now a widely used element in Orangi although it adds to investment being made by the residents. Its success is due to the fact that the people want a better physical and disease free environment and are willing to pay something extra for it.

7.2 The Design Of Elements

7.2.1 Manholes

Manholes used for our initial work were either copies of the cast-in-situ KMC models or were made by masons with block masonry. The former were far too large and their concrete sections too bulky. The latter required plastering and artisanal skill. As such both models were uneconomical. We therefore introduced cylindrical cast-in-situ manholes of a manageable size. Shuttering for these manholes were prepared and made available to the people. Thus artisanal skill was replaced by tools that the people could use themselves. As such the cost of a manhole was reduced to Rs 120 from Rs 400.

7.2.2 Manhole Covers

Manhole covers were originally made of RCC with steel rims as per K4D designs. They were expensive to make and they also required artisanal skill. As they were light, people lifted them up and put garbage into the manholes. To prevent this from happening the manhole cover was transformed into a simple rectangular concrete slab which was too heavy to lift easily, and which projected beyond the manhole chamber. This took care of both the high expense and the vandalism problem.

7.2.3 Position and Depth of Sewerage Lines

The people have insisted on laying the sewerage lines in the centre of the lanes. The reason for this is that if they were laid at one side, then some houses would require a longer length of pipe to make their connections. This would mean an extra cost to half the users. The people feel that this would result in serious sociological problems which the lane managers would not be able to cope with.

It was felt by us that the manholes and lines being in the lane centre, and subject to traffic, would collapse under the weight of a road roller, when, and if, the lanes were paved. However, when paving did take place the people of their own accord filled up the manholes with sand. This served two purposes. One, it strengthened the manhole structure to withstand the roller pressure; two, it made it possible for the lane residents to remove the carpeting on the sand filled manholes easily, empty them out, and replace the manhole covers. As such no manholes or lines have been damaged due to paving, and no manholes have been made inaccessible. This solution by the people was possible only because of the existence of their lane organizations, their involvement in development work, and their constant contact with sanitation technology in the form of OPP advice.

Our engineers had advised the people to lay the lines at a minimum of 2’-6” below ground level so as to withstand the weight of heavy traffic. However, the people in many cases have laid the lines at as little as l’-6” below ground level. As none of these have collapsed due to traffic (there is by the way almost no vehicular movement in the lanes anyway), we now insist that only lines on main streets, where there is heavy traffic, be laid at a depth of 2’-6”.

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