Government, International Agencies and OPP Collaboration for the Replication of OPP‘S Low Cost Sanitation Programme

1. Orangi Township

Orangi Township is the largest squatter settlement in Karachi. It is spread over 8,000 acres and has a population of about 900,000 living in 94,122 houses. Land-grabbing, its sale and development, along with credit and advice for house building to individual families, has all been carried out by the informal sector which also provides substandard health and education facilities. The main problem of the settlement, like all informal settlements in Pakistan, has been the unhealthy conditions created by the absence of sanitation and waste water disposal.

2. The Orangi Pilot Project (OPP)

The OPP is an NGO and has been working in Orangi Township since 1980. It considers itself a research institution whose objective is to analyse outstanding problems in Orangi, and then through prolonged action research and extension education, discover viable solutions. It does not carry out development work but promotes community organisation and cooperative action, and provides technical support to such initiatives. In the process, it overcomes most of the constraints governments face in upgrading low income informal settlements.

3. OPP’s Principles

3.1 The Need for Local Level Social and Economic Organisations

The philosophy of the OPP is summed up but its Director, Akhtar Hameed Khan, in a note on welfare work written in February 1980. He says: “We are all living through a period of social dislocation. Where people have been up-rooted from their old familiar environments, this dislocation is especially acute. They have to re-establish a sense of belonging, community feeling and the conventions of mutual help and cooperative action. This can be done chiefly through the creation of local level social and economic organisations. Without these organisations, chaos and confusion will prevail. On the other hand, if social and economic organisations grow and become strong, services and material conditions, sanitation, schools, clinics, training and employment will also begin to improve.”

3.2 The Need for Replicable Models

The OPP feels that the function of NGOs and pilot projects in informal settlement rehabilitation programmes should be to develop strategies that can be integrated into the planning mechanisms of the government. This is because the scale of the problem is far too large to be tackled without effective government participation. However, for this integration to become possible, there are three pre-requisites:

  • The models developed should overcome the constraints faced by government agencies in the rehabilitation of informal settlements without requiring major changes in their structure and/or the development and imposition of any radical legislature.
  • Overheads, staff salaries and related costs, should be in keeping with government expenditure patterns and regulations and the strategy should respect established state procedures.
  • Proper documentation of the processes of developing the model, the creation of a demonstration area, and effective training material have to be created, without which replication is difficult, if not impossible.

3.3 The Need for Professional-Community Interaction

Most programmes developed for the poor in Pakistan, in the opinion of the OPP, fail because they are designed by professionals who belong to the upper classes and are not fully conversant with the sociology, economics and culture of low income communities or the causes of the conditions in informal settlements. On the other hand, the informal sector, that increasingly caters to the needs of the urban poor in Pakistan, and the urban poor themselves do not have access to technical research and advice that qualified professionals can give. Subsequently, the development they bring about is substandard and fails to make use of the full potential of informal sector operators and low income communities. Therefore, an arrangement has to be made and institutionalised to enable effective interaction between qualified professionals and research institutions on the one hand, and the informal sector and low income communities on the other. The OPP has succeeded in creating such an arrangement.

4. OPP Programmes

Based on the principles mentioned above, the OPP is operating the following programmes:

  • A Low Cost Sanitation Programme
  • A Low Cost Housing Programme
  • A Basic Health and Family Planning Programme for segregated, illiterate or semi-literate low income housewives
  • A Women’s Work Centres Programme
  • A Programme of Supervised Credit for Small Family Enterprise Units
  • A School Programme which assists in the upgrading of the physical and academic conditions of schools established by private enterprise.

5. The Low Cost Sanitation Programme

5.1 Brief Description

OPP’s Low Cost Sanitation Programme has been described in detail in various monographs and reports and is its most developed and popular programme. Briefly, it consists of the OPP motivating the residents of the lanes in Orangi to organise, collect money and then manage the construction of underground sewers in their lanes and neighbourhoods. The sewers drain into natural drains, or nullahs as they are called, that carry the effluent to the sea. The OPP provides the lane organisations with plans, estimates of labour and materials required for building the system, and construction tools. As the people finance and build the sewers themselves, they also maintain them. The average cost of the system for a sanitary latrine in the home, the sewer in the lane, and the collector drain, works out to about Rs 900 (US$ 36) which is affordable to the people.

5.2 Results of the OPP’s Low Cost Sanitation Programme

It is now difficult to find a lane in Orangi which does not have an underground sanitation system. 69976 houses out of 94,122 now have sanitary latrines; 637 lanes out of 6,230 have an underground sewerage line; and 348 secondary drains collect and carry the affluent to the open nullahs. The people of Orangi have invested Rs 53 million (US$ 2.12 million) in this effort. The OPPs administrative, research and extension cost for this effort, on the other hand, works out to Rs 3.8 million (US$ 153,000). The ratio of OPP cost to the investment by the people is thus 1:131. In addition, people maintain the system they have financed and constructed themselves. If the local government had carried out this work it would have cost about Rs 375 million and the people would not have been able to pay it back because of its high cost.

However, there are problems. The nullahs which now carry the sewerage to the sea are silting up. With heavy rains they are also prone to flooding. Untreated sewerage is being taken to the sea, to which not only Orangi, but also the whole of Karachi is contributing. To overcome this problem the OPP has developed designs for the trunk sewers and is lobbying with the KMC to get them implemented. Trunk sewers and treatment plants are items the residents of Orangi cannot possible develop.

Surveys carried out by the Aga Khan Medical University establish that health conditions in Orangi have improved immensely due to the sanitation programme and real estate prices have shot up. In addition, the OPP now has technical manpower and social organisers, who not only understand the sanitation related problems of low income settlements, but also the processes required to involve and train communities in solving them. The OPP is in possession of tools, shuttering and equipment, that it has designed and developed, to train people and to deliver its sanitation model.

5.3 Significance of the Low Cost Sanitation Programme of the OPP

The formal sector in Pakistan provides only 180,600 housing units per year in the urban sector against a demand of 428,000 required to take care of population growth alone. The annual deficit of 257,400 housing units is taken care of by the creation of squatter settlements, informal subdivisions of agricultural land, postponement of replacement or through increased densities2. In Karachi alone, informal settlements grow at a ratio of 9 percent-plus against a total urban growth rate of 4.8 percent3. Realistic planners agree that for the foreseeable future this trend will not only continue but increase4.

Most squatter settlements manage to acquire water supply, electricity and gas over a period of time. Even road paving of some sort is developed by the ‘councillor’s programme’ of the municipal bodies and town committees. However, sewerage systems are almost never developed.

Meanwhile, the Katchi Abadi (squatter settlement) Improvement and Regularisation Programme (KAIRP), which was to overcome the problems of the katchi abadis has run into serious problems. The programme has failed miserably in meeting its targets. Since its inception only 1,210,963 katchi abadi residents out of 5,504,380 have benefitted from the Programme. This amounts to about 16,800 households per year5. To keep pace with the increasing backlog, 100,000 households per year should benefit from the programme for the next decade6. In addition, recovery of land and development charges is very poor. For example, the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) has spent 200 million rupees on the programme and in the last 7 years recovered only 10 million7. The project design makes the project unoperatable if there is more than a 20 percent default in payment.

The OPP’s Low Cost Sanitation Programme points a way out of this dilemma.

  1. OPP quarterly reports.
  2. Pakistan Low Cost Housing Project Report: ADB, 1989.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Karachi Master Plan figures support this contention.
  5. World Bank Shelter Sector Review, 1989.
  6. Pakistan Low Cost Housing Project Report: AD8, 1989.
  7. Ibid.

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