Rural Sanitation

Before pop­u­la­tion den­si­ties increased, san­i­ta­tion was not a major envi­ron­men­tal and health prob­lem for the rural areas. Vil­lages were small and most peo­ple went out into the fields to answer the call of nature. The bet­ter off used bucket latrines and scav­engers car­ried their exc­reta away from the vil­lage. It was dried and used as fer­til­izer. Waste water was min­i­mal due to small pop­u­la­tions and because there were no piped water schemes or indi­vid­ual hand pumps. Wash­ing clothes, male bathing, water­ing of ani­mals, all took place at the vil­lage well or at irri­ga­tion chan­nels. The used water went into the nearby fields.


Today there are 48,363 rural settlements in Pakistan. Seventy-three per cent of the rural population lives in settlement of more than 2,000. Half of this population lives in villages of more than 5,000 population. These settlements have urban characteristics and high densities. The majority of them have households that get water through individual hand pumps, electric motors and/or piped water schemes. The number of such households is increasing. The number of small villages meanwhile are decreasing rapidly. It is the larger rural settlements of more than 1,000 that need immediate attention. Due to high densities and cultural changes, using the fields is no longer possible and the village well is an almost dead institution. Meanwhile, due to social and economic mobility, the scavenger population has diminished, and in many areas is no longer available.


Previous approaches to rural sanitation have been the construction of soak pit latrines and paved open drains for waste water. For the larger settlements, both have been unsuccessful. The open drains along the streets have damaged people’s homes; caused flooding where piped water or portable subsoil water is available and created cesspools whose dewatering has posed problems in the absence of proper planning. The soak pits have contaminated the subsoil water where people use hand pumps to tap shallow aquifers. In addition, people have built pour flush latrines and connected them to the open drains causing serious environmental problems and health hazards. Since these schemes were put up without community financial involvement, communities have not maintained them and the government agencies are not organized to look after them as well and nor do they have the financial means to do so.


The Orangi Pilot Project (OPP) in Karachi has developed a sanitation model for urban areas. This model has been applied to the rural areas by the Lodhran Pilot Project (LPP). The basic concept of the OPP is:

  • Sanitation consists of: i) Sanitary latrine in the house; ii) underground sewer in the lane; iii) neighbourhood collector sewer; and iv) trunk sewer and treatment plants. The OPP terms the first three as “internal” development and the fourth as “external” development.
  • The OPP has demonstrated in Orangi and in 199 other locations in Pakistan (where it is working) that communities can finance, build and manage internal development if the state can provide external development.
  • The OPP calls its model the Component Sharing Model and its advantages are:
    • Scarce funds available with local government can be utilized more effectively since communities finance and build the internal.
    • Communities who invest in and manage construction also maintain the system and as such development becomes sustainable.
    • During construction skills develop and a more equitable relationship between government agencies and local communities is created.

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