Increasing Coverage and Quality of Sanitation Provision: Lessons Learnt Through the Work of The Orangi Pilot Project

Government Proposals

Major government plans for the sector are invariably designed and funded by foreign sources. They disregard the functional systems built by communities and municipal councilors as they consider them to be substandard in engineering terms. They try to rehabilitate the deep sewer systems and increase the capacity of the treatment plants that they are linked to. In addition, they lay deep self cleansing trunks along the roads to the existing treatment plants. Pumping is required to take the affluent to the plants since the sewers are deep and the systems do not follow the natural gradients. This increases operational costs and poses problems as there are frequent power failures in all cities. The existing trunks do not relate to the functioning “substandard systems” and as a result trillions of rupees will be required to relay these systems so as to link them to the new trunk sewers. If the old functioning systems are not re-laid, then the sewage cannot reach the treatment plants. The situation described above holds goods for Karachi, Sukkur, Faisalabad and Hyderabad and may hold good for other cities as well.

The government’s proposals are extremely expensive to implement. Many times more finances are required to realign existing systems and make the new trunks and upgraded treatment plants operational. These costs have not even been estimated. The Karachi experience shows that required realignments to make the new systems operational will not take place and as such the implementation of the government proposals will not bring any short or long term relief and the treatment plants will continue to operate at a fraction of the cost while the nalas will continue to carry untreated sewage to the sea.

The government proposals are expensive not only because they ignore ground reality but also because they are designed by foreign consultants and built for the most part by foreign contractors. This increases their costs by a good 300 to 400 per cent. KWSB already owes the Sindh government 47 billion rupees and its projects have not brought relief to the city. The treatment plants built with foreign assistance have a capacity of 151 million gallons daily. However, only 27 million gallons daily are treated in these plants since the rest of the sewage cannot reach them.

Solution to the Problem

The solution to the above problem is that; one, the existing functional systems should be accepted. Two, the nalas should be de-silted, their widths should be secured and they should be turned into box culverts or trunk sewers should be laid at their base or along side them. This will prevent sewage channels from being used as solid waste disposal points and will prevent their silting up and/or encroachments on them. Three; sewage should be picked up from the cesspools by rising mains and taken to the nearest disposal points thus reclaiming land from sewage affluent. Four, treatment plants should be built at the end of nalas and/or before entering into natural water bodies rather than sewage being forced in the direction of the existing treatment plants. For Karachi, the option of marine outfalls rather than expensive treatment plants should be considered. Five, the existing functional systems should be upgraded as shallow sewer systems over time, as and when finances are available, through councilor’s funds or community financed work and in future settlements, and those settlements which do not have a sewage system, the OPP-RTI concept of government-community partnership for external-internal development should be adopted and existing rules and regulations restructured to make this concept workable. In middle income settlements or cooperative societies, this work should be let out to contractors by the residents. Six, shallow sewers even if not self-cleansing should be adopted so that they can be maintained by communities and scavengers.

The proposals given above would reduce the cost of development to about 15 per cent of the cost for the systems being designed and/or implemented by government agencies in the cities where the OPP-RTI has been working and almost no foreign loans would be required for doing this work.

OPP-RTI research has discovered that the development of sewage systems in Europe took place initially in a manner similar to what it is proposing and that in Japan the same process is still being followed. In India, the city of Indore has followed the same strategy and received the Aga Khan Award for Architecture 1998 for it.

Pre-Requisites for Implementing the Above Solution

To make the above solution possible it is necessary to: accept the OPP concept; orient and train government planners, managers and NGO and community activists at the OPP-RTI on other similar projects; document all existing community and councilor supported infrastructure and its relationship to the natural drainage system so that it can be integrated into a larger city plan; and change KWSB/Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) rules and regulations to facilitate what has been proposed.

Examples to Illustrate the Above Observations/ Proposals

ADB-funded KWSB Sewage Plan for Orangi

In 1990 the OPP-RTI came to know of the ADB-funded (Project PAK-793) KWSB sewage plan for Orangi. The plan consisted of trunk mains which were situated along the main roads. The sewers did not pick up the work done by Orangi residents and KMC councilors in which over 60 million rupees had been invested and which disposed into the natural nalas. The cost of laying the trunks was 1,300 million rupees and many times more would be required to dig up the existing system and relay it to connect with the proposed trunks. In addition, funds for this relaying were not available.

The OPP-RTI lobbied with the then mayor and it was agreed that the ADB-funded KWSB project would not be implemented. Instead, main sewers would be laid in locations where sewer systems did not exist so as to enable communities to finance, build and link their lane sewers with the proposed collector drains. Subsequently, 120,983 running feet of main sewers (to which over 23,000 houses in 1,093 lanes can connect) were laid and their disposal are the natural nalas of Orangi. The sewers are shallow and can be maintained by communities. 36.2 million rupees was invested in them. Community activists, trained by the OPP, supervised the work of the Project contractors and did not permit any substandard work to be done.

Recently, the OPP-RTI has got the KMC to agree to convert the Orangi nalas into box culverts. This would cost 220 million rupees today at KMC contractor’s rates. The cost in 1993 was estimated at 142 million rupees. With the building of these box culverts the sewage system in Orangi will be completed. Government’s investment in the system will be 256.2 million rupees (Rs 36.2 million from the ADB-funded project plus Rs 220 million for nala development). This is in sharp contrast to the 1,300 million rupees that were required for simply building the trunks (under the ADB-funded project), which would not have picked up the work done by the people at a cost of 74.38 million rupees and whose cost at market rates is over 700 million rupees.

ADB-Funded KWSB Sewage Plan for Baldia

Another component of the ADB-funded project (PAK-793) was the construction of a sewage system of trunks, secondary and lane sewers, for a part of Baldia, which is a Karachi’s katchi abadi with about 25,000 houses.

Lane sewers disposing into the natural nalas had already been built by the people and the KMC. In the majority of cases the ADB-funded project infrastructure does not pick up the work done by the people. The sewers are also deep sewers and people are aware that they cannot maintain them. They also do not wish to connect with the new system since the old system works and connecting to the new system means considerable expense. As such, in many places they have filled in the new system with earth. In addition, in over 40 per cent of the cases the KWSB secondary sewers will not be able to pick up flows because their gradients are in the opposite direction to the existing system.

The Baldia project has cost the government over 400 million rupees and has alienated communities and failed to solve their sanitation problems. If the natural nalas and the KMC built pucca drains had been developed the cost would not have been more than 120 million rupees at market rates. This approach would also have solved the sanitation problems of the people of Baldia. This alternative is still the only possibility of providing Baldia with a proper and easy to maintain disposal.

The Proposed Korangi Sewage Project

Korangi Sewerage Project of KWSB is also a part of the Greater Karachi Sewerage Plan. It is being funded by an Asian Development Bank loan of US$ 70 million. An additional US$ 54.4 million is being raised by the government of Sindh.

The KWSB project document says that the project area consists of the two townships of Korangi and Landhi, which together have a population of 1.3 million.

The project comprises of: i) Construction of a sewage treatment plant (STP) with a capacity for treating 26 MGD sewage. ii) Rehabilitation and extension of about 120 kilometers (kms) sewers including desilting and restoration of 35 kms of existing trunk sewers. These existing trunks are the upper and lower Landhi trunk sewers. In addition, the project envisages the construction of 35 kms secondary sewers and 50 kms lane sewers to connect to the main trunks. iii) Construction of 5.8 km new trunk sewer to connect the old trunk sewers to the STP.

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