Initiatives in Grassroot’s Participation

3. The Housing Programme of the Orangi Pilot Project

Most of Orangi is a squatter colony developed by ‘dalals’ The people here have built their houses with the advice and assistance of ‘thallawalas’. In addition, it is an area which is still expanding. Keeping in view what has been discussed and concluded in the earlier part of this paper, a housing programme in Orangi could not be successful if it aimed at anything more than helping people to continue doing in a better way what they were already involved in doing.

To achieve this it was necessary to understand what was happening in Orangi in the housing arena, and to identify the roles of the various actors in the housing drama and their relationships with each other on the one hand, and with materials, technology and culture on the other.

Therefore, a research strategy for this purpose was prepared. A study was then carried out by the students of architecture at the Dawood College of Engineering and Technology, as part of their environment course.

3.1 Findings

Briefly, the findings of the study are as follows:

  • Five to 7% of the houses in Orangi are built by the people themselves without any help from skilled or unskilled labour. These houses are one or two room affairs, cost between Rs. 3,000 to 4,000 each and are completed in.2 or 4 days. The materials of construction are locally available rubble, mats, timber sacking, polythene sheets and other industrial wastes or rejects. The construction is technically unsound, the roofs leak, the stone walls are not properly bonded and the structure in many cases cannot withstand strong winds. The owners of these houses are aware of these defects but they cannot achieve a better standard of housing with these materials. And as they are poor, they cannot afford to use other materials of construction.
  • Fifty five to 60% of the houses are constructed with the help of skilled masons and the hiring of unskilled labour on a daily wage basis. Materials are purchased by the owner from the local ‘thallawala’ or manufacturer. The supervision of construction is also carried out by the owner who sometimes gets his family members to work at the site as well. These houses are made of precast concrete block foundations, plinths and walls. The roofs consist of galvanised iron sheets supported on angle iron trusses or timber joists. The walls are un-plastered and the floor is made of cement concrete. Such houses cost Rs. 35,000 to Rs. 40,000 each consist of 3 rooms, a kitchen and a bathroom built around a paved courtyard; have steel doors and windows and are completed in about 4 to 5 weeks.
  • Invariably during construction relations between the owner and the mason get strained. This is due to the owner’s lack of knowledge of construction matters and the mason’s attempts to cheat the owner. This results in substandard workmanship, lack of curing of concrete, and faulty details. The galvanised iron sheets roofs leak due to incorrect transversal and longitudinal overlapping and insufficient slopes; the support to the roofs sag, and the unplastered walls take in a lot of water during the rains. The most serious defect, however, is the erosion of plinth walls and foundations due to the presence of sulphates in the soil and the problem of rising damp in the walls.
  • Fifteen to 20% of the houses are built on labour rates by contractors hired by the owner. Such houses cost about Rs 50,000 to Rs 55,000 each and are identical to the houses described in 2 above. Their construction defects are also similar.
  • Four to 5% of the houses in Orangi are termed as ‘pucca’ structures. They have in-situ plinths, plastered walls and reinforced concrete roofs. However, the foundations and plinth walls do come under sulphate attack. Damp-proofing for walls is non-existent and concrete is not sufficiently cured. Also blocks are not properly dried before use. These defects, again, arise due to the technical ignorance of the owner and the contractor, or because of delinquency on the part of the latter. These houses cost about Rs 70,000 each.
  • ‘Thallawalas’ and ‘lohars’ are indispensable for house building in Orangi. Items such as concrete blocks, lintols, small slabs, and concrete screens are manufactured by the former. The latter supply steel grills, windows and doors. They also give materials on credit and sometimes cash credit as well. However, the ‘thallawala’ concrete manufacturers are all substandard. The aggregate is of bad quality, the mix is poor, curing is insufficient and profit margins are enormous. Due to these reasons the structures weather badly and many defects arise. In addition, most ‘thallawalas’ do not wish to experiment and are shy to introduce new materials which they feel may not be accepted by the people. The study established the complete dependence of the housing industry on the local ‘thallawala’. This is an important fact.

The other points established by the study were

  • The role of culture in determining house form; and
  • The problems people face in fulfilling the requirements of the local bodies for the regularization of their plots, preparation of lease documents and approval of building plans.

These items, which do not form part of our initial housing programme, need to be researched further.

3.2 Research And Extension

It has been decided that the research and extension method adopted for the OPP low cost sanitation programme will be followed for the housing programme also. Keeping this in view the housing programme should aim at:

  • Educating the person who builds his own house without artisanal help to
    • Use the cheap and readily available materials in a technically sound manner;
    • Provide him with necessary tools to increase his efficiency and quality of construction;
    • Develop new techniques and materials that are compatible with his economic constraints and can be manufactured and used by him without difficulty.
  • Identify for the owner, who hires artisans, makes purchases from the ‘thallawala’, and supervises construction:
    • Shortcomings in artisanal work and the manner of overcoming them;
    • Quality defects in the items manufactured by the ‘thallawala’ and the reasons for those defects;
    • The nature and manner of construction supervision;
    • Actual costs of materials and labour.
  • Initiate a course for masons to improve their functioning and quality of work.
  • Prepare extension literature to explain and give solutions for various technical defects in housing in Orangi such as:
    • Sulphate attack upon foundations and plinths;
    • Leakages in galvanized sheet roofing;
    • Sagging timber joists and angle iron trusses in roofs, and initiate research for finding cheaper and more economic substitutes for them.
  • Discover ‘thallawalas’ who are ready to
    • Improve their quality of work and help them to do so without substantially reducing their profit margins
    • Stock and manufacture new and cheaper materials such as cement and rice husk cement blocks and instruct them in their use.
  • Study the possibility of a cooperative effort for new housing.

One Comment

  1. Ghulam Nabi

    My name is Ghulam Nabi and i am student of SOCIAL SCIENCES.
    Well sir your general conclusion is quite abstract to the issue of katchi abadi. what practical approach do you think can actually resolve such complex and life threatening issue? a solution that can be used effectively in today’s scenario.

    Posted April 5, 2016 at 3:22 pm | PermalinkReply

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