The Low Cost Sanitation Programme of the OPP

The people insisted that the OPP should prepare the plans for the line and supervise its construction. This was done, and in addition the OPP supplied tools, shutterings and levels to the KMC contractor who was awarded the work. The people supervised the construction and did not allow the contractor to do substandard work. This may have lowered the contractor’s profit margin, but the research done by the OPP for simpler and cheaper designs proved to be an asset to the contractor. The completed work was far superior to normal KDA-KMC construction, and no KMC engineer ever visited the site.

Afaq Shahid is a lawyer, and was later elected to the National Assembly of Pakistan, as a representative from Orangi.

After the underground sewer in sector five had been laid, other councillors, under public pressure have also been forced to ‘misuse’ the KMC waste water fund for laying sewerage lines. The OPP is often asked to prepare plans, supply tools and supervise the construction work for these lines. Even funds reserved for road building have been diverted into the construction of underground drains. Councilors like S.M. Akhtar and Anwar Nawab, who were deadly opponents of the OPP, and who tried their best to prevent the OPP from operating in their areas, and also threatened OPP organizers with violence, have also given in under public pressure and are constructing underground secondary drains.

Mohammad Ahmed, the councilor of sector ten, who had supported the OPP in its initial stages, has again understood the situation. Whenever he applies for funds he seeks OPP advice as to where the secondary drain should be so as to benefit the largest number of lanes. After the money has been sanctioned, he sees to it that OPP’s advice is sought at the right time, and that it is followed by the KMC contractors. No decision regarding development are taken for sector ten without involving Ramzan Qureshi, the OPP social organizer for the area. It is due to these factors that the work being done in sector ten is not only the most beneficial to the people, but also the best in quality. Mohammad Ahmed had told Dr. Khan a couple of years ago, that he would never make any money from the drain laying process in his ward. The OPP have reason to believe that he has kept his word.

The OPP does not intend to wait patiently for the other councilors to be forced by the people to follow Mohammad Ahmed’s example, as it did in its initial stages. It is now in a strong position as it has given sanitation, to over forty thousand houses. A study of the work being done in the circles of other councilors has been undertaken by the OPP and it has been discovered that a lot of wrong decisions have been taken with regard to the position of secondary drains. In some places lanes have been provided with primary drains to help friends and relatives. At other places the quality of work is poor. The under preparation case studies will tell the people of these wrong decisions, of the substandard work, and of corruption and nepotism related to this work. The OPP knows that the people will now listen to it and take appropriate action.

Only those areas in OPP’s Orangi now need sanitation which have problems in terrain, or need exceptionally long secondary drains to reach the natural creeks. Solving these problems is an expensive proposition, and as such the KMC’s financial involvement (against its wishes) in the laying of these secondary drains is most helpful.

The OPP has also started to receive requests from areas outside Orangi to come and assist them in laying their sanitation systems. In Masoom Colony, which is a squatter colony of beggars in Karachi, the residents have laid a drainage system with the help of the extension services of the OPP. Requests have also come from a number of large villages at a distance of over 200 kilometers from Karachi, and from Baba Island, a small fisherman’s village in Karachi Bay. Orangi serves as a demonstration area for activists and members of the communities which apply for assistance. Their active members, and artisans from among them, visit the OPP and understand the methodology of developing organizations and managing development work. The OPP also gives them tools on loan for construction work. Without these tools they would remain at the mercy of contractors, who are the only group that has the necessary tools for construction.

The OPP has also launched a housing programme for Orangi. Its aim is to educate the people so as to bring about a change in the relationship between the people who build their houses and the Orangi “thallawalas”. There are of course technical aspects to this programme as well, which aim at improving the functioning of the Orangi ‘thallas’.

The OPP and the Local Bodies

Initially the executives of the local bodies considered the OPP as something of a joke. It was a game that an old intellectual was playing, and he had gathered some professionals around him who were already known for their weird ideas. Whenever Dr. Khan tried to establish some relationship with the local bodies, he found the reaction polite, but the doors remained closed.

However, as the work in the lanes progressed, and secondary drains began to be laid, the local bodies were forced to take the OPP more seriously. Towards the end of 1984, the OPP explained to the Chief Engineer of the KMC and the Secretary of Local Bodies, that the OPP was developing three levels of sanitation in Orangi. These are the latrine in the house, the primary drain in the lane, and the secondary drain to the creek. The forth level, consisting of the main drain in the creeks, and possible treatment plants for sewerage, was an item the OPP could do nothing about, as the people would not be interested in it, and also as it was beyond their financial means. The Secretary, the Chief Engineer and his staff visited Orangi for the first time, and passed a favourable judgment. They said that the work done by the OPP, could be integrated into a master plan. A major departure from their previous point of view. This change was the result of a personal interest that Mansul ul Hasan, Secretary of the Local Bodies, took in the Project. As a result of this interest the KMC has appointed a consultant to prepare a master plan for developing the main drains for Orangi Township.

The OPP’s Low Cost Sanitation Programme has also brought about a major environmental and social change in Orangi. The lanes where sewerage lines have been laid are now clean and healthy. In these lanes the people have also started improving their houses, and the price of property has gone up considerably. A survey reports that quarrels related to sanitation, which were common in pre—OPP days, have disappeared, and that there is now more social harmony.

The Low Cost Sanitation Programme of the OPP has shown that the ‘katchi abadis’ of Karachi can build their sewerage system without international aid, without waiting for the local bodies to take decisions (usually the wrong ones), and without catering to a system of development of which corruption is an integral part. Furthermore, in the process of acquiring these services they can bring about. a change in the unequal political relation that they have with those who rule them. This change will have important long term repercussions.

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