The Low Cost Sanitation Programme of the OPP

There were also other reasons why the people accepted the concept of secondary drains. First, they started realizing the relationship between sanitation and health. This was due to the motivation meetings of the OPP where social organizers emphasised this relationship and explained to the people the economic benefits of good health. No doctor’s fees, no money spent on medicine, no staying in bed and losing wages. Two, the people noticed that the value of property had gone up in those lanes where the people had laid a sewerage system with OPP assistance. This was a major incentive as the people in Orangi are obsessed at increasing the value of their property. Three, Orangi started receiving regular water from stand posts in late 1983. This water is substantial, and in the absence of a sewerage or drainage system entire neighbourhoods got flooded, resulting in water-logging. Certain streets had to be vacated as there was ankle deep foul water in the houses. Lanes having a OPP designed sewerage system did not suffer from this problem. Four, was simply the demonstration effect of OPP work. Not only was the problem clearly visible here, but a solution also.

The above factors, along with the involvement of students in the survey work and the preparation of circle handbooks, threw up a number of activists who got different lanes together, or pressurised the councilors to do so, and made the secondary drains possible.

The Orangi Leadership and the OPP

The reaction of the Municipal Councilors in Orangi to the Low Cost Sanitation Programme varied considerably. Most viewed it as a threat to their leadership and refused to cooperate with the OPP for arranging meetings or motivating the people. Others were indifferent. They felt that as long as the OPP’s effort was limited to individual lanes and not to entire sectors or neighbourhoods, their position would not be affected. In either case, the OPP thesis that the people would have to lay the sewerage system as the KDA — KMC would not do it free of cost, was in itself a blow to the leadership. They had been telling the people for years of the attempts they were making to get this work done by the local bodies free of charge, and with this talk building up their importance. However, there were a couple of councilors who cooperated with the OPP in every way, and most of the initial work was done in their areas, and with their involvement. One such person was Mohammad Ahmed, councilor of sector ten.
Mohammad Ahmed had been involved in the ‘initial illegal subdivisions that created Orangi Township. He has been a school teacher, and is as such educated. He is also the founder of the first school in Orangi, for years the only school. He was, and some say still is, a member of the National Awami Party, a national left wing political organization which has been banned several times, only to resurface under a new name. Mohammad Ahmed saw the logic behind Dr. Khan’s thesis and also the benefit that it would bring to the people. He also saw that by being a party to the programme he could build up his own position in Orangi.
Whenever the social organizers of the OPP arranged to hold meetings in the lanes, they contacted the neighbourhood leadership, so as to involve them in the programme. This was necessary to prevent the possibility of any antagonism between the OPP and the leadership. The entire approach of the OPP at the initial stage was aimed at creating the minimum of disruption in the social and political life of Orangi.

As the OPP work progressed and more lanes were developed, requests started to come for assistance even from lanes in the wards of hostile councilors. The demonstration effect and water-logging brought about further changes in the OPP programme and its relationship to the councilors. A time came when public pressure forced the councilors to help in bringing various lanes together for the laying of secondary drains. Motivation meetings became increasingly unnecessary as the people were convinced about the soundness of the OPP programme, and the volume of work increased. To deal with this new situation the OPP increased its investment in tools, and vehicles to transport them, so that requests from lanes could be met promptly. Without this corresponding increase in inputs the programme would have run into serious difficulties.

Research, Monitoring and Extension

The OPP consultants and staff have constantly carried out research to relate their technical solutions to social issues and economic constraints. As a result, sanitation technology has been modified continually, conventional engineering standards rejected, and new tools and shutterings developed. In addition, errors in construction and organization have been identified, and their rectifications worked out and conveyed to the people through pamphlets, posters and meetings. The result has been that the lane people now understand sanitation technology, the necessity of curing concrete along with the proper mix for concrete, the responsibilities of the local bodies towards them, and the duties of their councillors.

In addition, the OPP has carried out research into various problems in Orangi. For example, a research was carried out on the open surface drains built by the KMC. The problems related to the construction, maintenance, costs and operation of these drains were clearly stated and the research pamphlet was distributed among the people. The people were told that these drains were a waste of RMC money, and that this wasted money was actually theirs. Underground drains which could also carry sewerage, they were informed, were a better solution.

Similarly research was carried Out On the causes of salinity and water-logging, and the results conveyed to the people. Orangi residents were also told that the solution to these twin problems lay in the development of an effective drainage system.
This research and its extension has led to the creation of an awareness which is now asserting itself, and the direction it has taken is discussed later in this paper.

The OPP and Educational Institutions

The OPP has a working relation with the Aga Khan Medical University and Orangi has become the workshop for its community health programme. The students carry out surveys and investigations into the health situation in Orangi and understand the problems of the urban poor through the contacts that they establish though the OPP, and the insight that the OPP has gained through five years of work in Orangi. The results of this research in turn help the Women’s Welfare Programme of the OPP.

Although the Engineering University has no official link with the OPP, and none of its teaching staff has visited the Project, engineering students have worked with the OPP for the last three years. This work has consisted mostly of physical surveys, surveys for evaluation of OPP work, and preparation of circle handbooks. They have attended the weekly meetings of the OPP and contributed to the Orangi magazine. This association has changed their thinking considerably, and they understand the necessity of relating engineering to sociological factors. This, for our conservative teaching institutions is blasphemy. This year three of these students graduated and they have formed a consultancy organization which calls itself “Human Engineering Services”. The engineering students were introduced to the OPP because of the links OPP’s Joint Director, Architect Parween Rahman, has with the Engineering University. Her sister teaches over there.

The OPP’s most fruitful association however has been with the Department of Architecture at the Dawood College. Students of architecture have been associated with Orangi since 1982. Their teachers have given them programmes related to Orangi. Final year thesis, dealing with squatter colonies invariably make use of the research facilities offered by the OPP. In addition, junior students of architecture have helped carry out evaluation surveys of OPP work, but unlike the engineers, these exercises were made a part of their official programme.

Some teachers of the Department have also visited the OPP, and taken a keen interest in its evolution. All this is bringing major changes in the thinking of the younger architects in Pakistan. An expression of this change is the Honorary Fellowship which Dr. Akhtar Hameed Khan received, in December 1985, from the Institute of Architects Pakistan, for his work in Orangi.

New Directions

Towards the end of 1984 an important event took place in Orangi, which has brought about a major change in the KNC-councillor and the councilor-people relationship.

Afaq Shahid, councilor of sector five, had funds sanctioned by the KMC for the construction of an open surface drain in his area. The people refused to let the drain be constructed and put pressure on him to have an underground main drain constructed so as to make it possible for a number of lanes to lay and connect their sewerage lines to it. There was no provision in the KMC regulations to allow for construction of an underground sewerage line. The KMC argued that this could only be done if there was a proper master plan for a sanitation system, and such a plan, or even initial surveys for its preparation, did not exist. However, Afaq Shahid pleaded the case of his electorate and the line was laid, with much misgivings on the part of the KMC engineers.

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