The Low Cost Sanitation Programme of the OPP

The evaluation also showed that in spite of OPP extension work, the quality of construction was poor. For example, a proper aggregate cement ratio was not being maintained in concrete work, and in some cases earth had also been scooped up and mixed with the concrete.

To remove these discrepancies, small metal sheets for mixing concrete are now supplied so that the concrete should not be mixed on the ground. In addition, proper measuring boxes for aggregate, and rods for rodding of concrete are also given along with other tools. These steps have greatly improved the quality of concrete.

Again, the masons or petty contractors employed by the people did not cure the concrete properly, and there was no way to force them to do so as the OPP supervisors were not always there, and even if they were, they had no authority to have their advice implemented. To remove this defect, posters and pamphlets explaining the necessity of curing were pasted and distributed in the lanes where work was being done. At lane meetings OPP organizers also explained to the people the necessity of curing concrete. As a result, it is common to see lane residents pouring water on the joints of pipes and manholes that fall before their houses. Pressure is now also applied by the users on the masons and contractors to cure concrete properly. Educating the people has overcome this shortcoming.

Many other rectifications and modifications were suggested by OPP consultants and they were implemented slowly over a period of time. If these suggestions had been forced upon the sanitation programme at once, lane managers would not have been able to assimilate them, and the people’s confidence in themselves and in the 0PP organizers would have been badly damaged. Such a radical change would have brought the programme to a halt. However, since February 1983, the work being done by the people with OPP advice is excellent, and in all ways superior to similar work being done by the local bodies in the low income areas of Karachi.

The UN Experts

Between September 1982 and January 1983, the OPP had the benefit of a UN advisor and several visits were made to the project by UN experts. The UN experts felt that the laying of sanitation lines should be stopped, that the OPP should adopt the twin leach-pit system for each house so as to completely seal the excreta, and that the waste water should flow in open drains. They felt that the large gauge pipes the OPP was laying complete with manholes were a waste of the people’s money, when there was not enough water in Orangi to make a water—borne sewerage system function. They further said, that even if leach-pits were not acceptable, the OPP should discard the RCC pipes and manholes and replace them 2” pvc pipes. The making of ‘haudis’, they felt, had obliterated the use of large gauge RCC pipes and manholes, and to insist on making them was not only uneconomical but irrational. In addition, the experts pointed out that even if the OFF technology was acceptable, the result would be nothing short of a disaster, since the OPP had no surveys, physical, social or ethnic, no master plan, and no work programme. The experts further explained that the OPP was developing an underground sewerage system which required sophisticated engineering and artisanal skills. This could be developed only in association with local bodies, in association with the councillors, with the help of local contractors, and through community organizations much larger than lanes. If not, they said, the programme would not develop beyond the lanes near the creeks.

The OPP disagreed. First, because it knew that the people aspired to a traditional sewerage system which is common all over Karachi. It would be difficult to get the people to finance anything else. Second, it also knew that when water would be made available to the people of Orangi, the leach-pits would fill up quickly. Third, open drains require constant maintenance and pose health hazards. The OPP also rejected the proposal of doing away with manholes and RCC pipes, because it felt that a day would come when there would be enough water in Orangi for a normal sewerage system to function, and that eventually the present programme would become a movement for sanitation in the lanes of Orangi. This, it was felt, would develop pressures on the community for secondary drains, and on the local government for the preparation of big drains. The OPP did not wish to seek a narrow solution to an immediate problem that ignored the social dynamics which could be set in motion. In addition, the OPP felt that targets, time tables and master plans were not possible, as the OPP was no more than an advisor to the people, and as the people were financing development as well, work could only be done at their pace. Association with hostile councillors, local bodies and contractors at that early stage, could only be on their terms, not the OPP’s. That meant that the OPP would have to give into the system to which it was hoping to find an alternative. And finally, making soak-pits and open drains, both provisional arrangements, meant that the OPP would not be replacing municipal function, and without replacing municipal function no change could take place in the unequal relationship between the Municipal Corporation and the people of Orangi. A change in this relationship, the OPP felt, was more important for development than the building of any efficient drainage system.

Time has justified the OPP approach. Since 1983 Orangi is getting 35 million gallons of water from the Hub River Dam. All soak-pits in Orangi are filling up rapidly. In fact, in many low lying areas, water-logging has become a menace. Lane organizations have come together to tackle the secondary drains, and due to public pressure and the involvement of the elected councilors, the local government has taken the first steps to study the problem. The cost of the OPP sanitation programme at three levels (the sanitary latrine in the home with the haudi, the underground sewerage pipe line in the lane, and the underground concrete pipe secondary drain) comes to less than Rs. 1,000 per house. The house owners regard this as quite economical.

As far as the fear of the programme not developing beyond the lanes near the ‘nullah’ was concerned, the OPP felt that if the people, now organized at lane level, were educated regarding this problem, and if the local councilors could forced to get involved in seeking a solution, the programme could proceed further. The technical solution posed no serious problem. It was the creating of an awareness leading to coordination in the whole ‘mohalla’ (neighbourhood) that was necessary. It was the building up of social pressure that was needed. So the OPP decided to work towards it.

There was no agreement between the OPP and the UNCHS. The BCCI gave them a part of Orangi and established a new project for them. This has now been wound up after developing thirty five lanes in three years.

Circle Handbook and Secondary Drains

To promote the concept of secondary drains so as to involve the lanes away from the ‘nullahs’ in the programme, it was decided to survey the ward of each elected councilor. The physical survey was undertaken by engineering and architecture students, who were helped and assisted by the OPP workers and Orangi residents. The plan of each ward was prepared. The plan showed the slope of the land; number of houses; number of lanes and existing ‘nullahs’. The survey could have been carried out by professional surveyors in a short period of time. But the OPP carried it out with the help of students for four reasons. First, to promote an understanding of the sewerage system among the people, without which no further community work was possible. Second, to take the concept of development through local participation to the professional colleges and universities. Third, to involve the councillors by making the ward a unit of research and to arm them with facts and figures about their ward, and with a vision of a better future. And fourth, to educate OPP workers and the people of Orangi, who in turn would pressurize the councillors.

Because of involving the people and their representatives in the survey, whole neighbourhoods or ‘mohallas’ started coming forward to have their lanes and secondary drains built. On the basis of the information provided by the OPP, the councilors started asking the OPP to prepare plans arid estimates so that they could pressurize the KMC into financing the people’s schemes. As such, the lane organizations formed by the OPP started coming together. But the most important part is that the councillors, the KMC contractors, and the professionals started dealing increasingly with a population that understood sanitation technology, appreciated good quality work, knew costs, and therefore would not permit kickbacks and profiteering.

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