Participation By Whom?

Residents of informal settlements in Pakistan invest large sums of money in acquiring water and sanitation through community efforts. Where de-facto or de-jure tenure security exists, this investment is much larger. In the initial stages, water is acquired from hand pumps where the subsoil water is not brackish. In locations where subsoil water is not potable, it is acquired through tankers. Neighborhood committees are formed to collect money, make a community underground water tank and distribute the water from it. When a settlement is well established it lobbies for a piped water supply system from relevant government departments. For this community organisations invite important politicians on special occasions to visit their settlements or negotiate with candidates during an election process. Often the organisation bribes councilors into getting them to spend their development funds in its area. If a water line is available near the settlement, people plug into it illegally. However, to do this they have to informally pay the staff of the relevant water and sewage agency a lump sum to begin with and a regular charge afterwards. Usually this charge is in excess of official charges for similar facilities.

Similarly, where there is a sewage disposal available such as an open nala or a municipal trunk line, people connect to it. For this they get together, collect money and manage the construction of sewage lines. In other places, they construct open drains or again bribe or manipulate their councilors into doing this done for them.

The scale of community managed development is enormous and can be judged from the fact that 23,943 houses in 38 Karachi settlements have invested over Rs 28.75 million in water and sewage lines. However, most of this community work, along with the work done through the councilor’s programme, is substandard and quickly falls into disuse, or the community has to constantly spend money to keep it in operation. This is because the community does not possess technical skills, cannot map conditions and make estimates. In addition, the councilor’s programmes are carried out without proper design and are not supervised. Their cost of development is ten to twelve times the cost of labour and materials involved in them. Their bad quality clearly points to the unequal political relationship that exists between poor communities and the local administration.

The Orangi Pilot Project (OPP) is an NGO working in Orangi Township in Karachi. It was established in 1980. For the last fifteen years it has been providing technical assistance, social guidance and managerial support to Orangi residents in the laying of sewage lines so that their investment does not go to waste. As a result, people have built over 84 thousand latrines and laid over 1.5 million running feet of underground drains and collector sewers. In the process, they have invested over 67 million rupees. However, they have not been able to lay trunk sewers and their sewage system is disposed off in natural open nalas and through them is carried away to the city’s main sewage channel.

On the basis of its experience in Orangi, the OPP has developed a concept for a model for government-community partnership. According to the model, the community, supported by an NGO, is to build and finance latrines, lane sewers and collector drains. This development by the community is known by the OPP as “internal development”. Sewage disposal trunks and treatment plants are to be provided by government agencies. This development is known as “external development”. In Orangi, as mentioned above, “external development” was not required due to the topography of the area. As such there was no government involvement in OPP work in Orangi.

Attempts at replicating the OPP government-community partnership model have been made in four cases. These are the UNICEF supported Urban Basic Services (UBS) Programme in Sukkur, Sindh province serving a population of about 38,000; the World Bank supported Collaborative Katchi Abadi Improvement Programme (CKAIP), pilot project at Hyderabad, Sindh serving a population of about 45,000; the Asian Development Bank (ADB) funded Katchi Abadi Upgrading Programme under the Karachi Urban Development Project (KUDP) serving a population of about 200,000; and more recently the Sindh Katchi Abadi Authority (SKAA) has adopted the OPP model as well for its katchi abadi upgrading process. In the first three cases, the programmes have failed to meet their objectives. In the fourth case it is still to early to pass a judgement. In all cases the OPP has been a consultant to the programmes and has trained the government officials, community activists and other members of the programme staff.

In the case of Sukkur and Hyderabad, OPP was able to mobilize the community for “internal development”. However, the government agencies have not been able to deliver their part of the agreement. In Sukkur, the “external development” which consisted of 8,000 running feet of rising sewage main, a pumping station and 1,800 running feet of trunk sewer was completed and the community was mobilized and started doing “internal development”. However, this “external development”, which should have taken no more than 6 months to complete, took over3 years. To get this done, the OPP had to constantly fight against the unwillingness of the staff of government agencies to undertake and support this work. This was in spite of the fact that the upper levels of bureaucracy were interested in the success of the project. After the completion of the project, it has fallen into disuse. The pumping station functions erratically and the 28 acre cesspool that it had emptied is now full again resulting in a back-wash into the homes that have built their underground sewage system. These homes have now gone back to using open drains and bucket latrines.

The story of Hyderabad is not dissimilar. The community has been mobilized but even after three years “external development” which consists of about 6,000 running feet of trunk sewer has not yet been completed. As a result, the spirit of the community has been dampened.

Reasons for the delay in Hyderabad and the failure in Sukkur are primarily a lack of interest in government departments for carrying out programmes that are low cost. In this case, “internal development” which constitutes about 80 percent of the cost, was being done by the people. In addition, there is no accountability in government organisations and decisions taken in meetings with municipal administrators, deputy commissioners, commissioners, and even ministers, are not followed. Processes of tendering are complex and archaic and supervision is non-existent. Officials are changed frequently (there were five SKAA Director Generals in three years) and the project concept has to be explained to the new officials all over again. They take time to understand and absorb the concept and their interest or appreciation of the project determines its fate. Meanwhile, politicians complicate matters by promising residents free development, the contracts for which are given to their supporters.

In the ADB financed project things were somewhat different. First, the project was in Karachi and more over, part of it was in Orangi where the OPP had been working for many years. As a result, it was able to mobilize the community; train activists and technicians from the community to supervise the work being done by the government contractors; and form a monitoring system of which the communities were an integral and perhaps the most important part. In spite of this, the problems were enormous but the project was completed satisfactorily. The reason for its comparative success is that people were fully involved in “external development” as well.

As a result of these experiences, the OPP has realized that its model was based on a wrong assumption that state agencies would be interested in the model and would be able to deliver “external development”. The OPP has now decided that the time and effort required to motivate government agencies and to monitor them is not worth the result that is achieved in terms of technical skill enhancement, acceptance of the OPP concept and scale. This effort can only produce a small island at best and that too of doubtful sustainability. The new OPP model now aims at supporting community organisations by building up their technical and managerial capacity and capability and developing the designs, details and estimates of “external development” so that they can lobby with the government agencies for this development, and also oversee it. This model is still in its infancy but there are signs of considerable success in Faisalabad where the Anuman Samaji Behbood, a local organisation serving about 3,000 housing units, has successfully negotiated with government agencies through coercion, constant dialogue and some other “undefined” means to do part of the “external development” itself, and to get the agencies to execute the rest. Work in four other settlements in the Punjab is being carried out on the same principle.

The OPP experience of working with government shows that unless the community is supported with the tools to empower it, government-community relationships are dominated by state culture which is against all government-community collaboration since such collaboration deprives it of both political and financial power. Such “collaboration” simply means that the community is required to participate in a government programme on government terms. However, given the scale of community investments in Pakistan’s low income settlements and the failure of government to service the poor, it is the government that should participate in the on-going programmes of low income communities. If this concept is accepted, it will bring about a fundamental change in the design of government-NGO-CBO partnership projects and the concept of technical assistance (as we know it) to government agencies.

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