The Sanitation Programme of the Orangi Pilot Project – Research and Training Institute, Karachi, Pakistan


A number of lessons related to governance and finance issues have been learnt from the OPP-RTI programmes and experience. They are given below.

  • Government has sufficient funds to develop external development through contractors but not sufficient funds to develop both external and internal development through the contracting system.
  • The absence of documentation of existing community and/or NGO built infrastructure makes it impossible for this infrastructure to be integrated into government plans for sanitation. As a result, there is a lot of duplication, wastage of investments made by NGO/communities and government schemes that are never fully utilised.
  • Poor communities living in katchi abadis in Pakistan can invest upto Rs 2,000 in financing an underground sewage system. Very poor families are able to collect this sum in a period of four to six months.
  • The cost of community financed and managed internal infrastructure is about 25 per cent of the cost of government developed sewage systems.
  • OPP-RTI designed and community supervised external development is less costly and of better quality than conventional government planned and implemented development.
  • Poor communities incrementally invest in improving their living conditions provided they have a de-facto or de-jure security of tenure. They also invest to establish a de-facto tenure security. Much of this investment is badly implemented due to an absence of sound technical advice. This investment is also not recognised by the state and since it is not documented either, it is not integrated into official plans. If it is documented, and it is large in scale, it becomes difficult to ignore.
  • Development does not take place with funds alone. It takes place through the development of skills, self-reliance and dignity. The three are closely interlinked and follow each other in the order in which they are mentioned. They make relationships within community, and of communities with government agencies, more equitable. This change in relationships brings about changes in government planning procedures and ultimately in policies.
  • “Capacity and capability” of government institutions can never be successful without pressure from organised and knowledgeable groups at the grass roots. Such groups can only be created by activists, who have to be identified, trained and supported financially. Formally trained professionals and technicians are not an alternative to such activists. The formation of such groups forces transparency in the functioning of government agencies.
  • One of the major reasons for disasters in government planning is that ideal plans are made and finances are then sought for them. Often these finances do not materialise. Things would be very different if planning is done on the basis of a realistic assessment of funds that are available, and if an optimum relationship can be arrived at between resources (financial, technical and others), standards and demands, and if planning can recognise and accommodate the fact that all three are dynamic and can change over time.
  • Community organisations exist all over Pakistan. However, their main function is to lobby government agencies and politicians for development. This development is handed out as patronage and without proper planning and implementation. It is substandard and inadequate. More often than not, it does not materialise. People have lost hope in the lobbying process and are looking for alternatives.
  • A map of the settlement, or the small town in which replication is to take place, is an essential pre-requisite to planning. The process of preparing a map, identifying existing infrastructure and problems in it, is in itself a motivational exercise. The map changes perceptions about what is required for the settlement or city and relates them to ground realities. It has been observed that government agencies do not have such plans or the expertise to prepare them and as such their planning perceptions and assumptions are inaccurate.
  • In all the cities of Pakistan waste water and sewage is either disposed off in depressions outside the city or into the natural drainage system. It has been planned to do so. This reality is ignored when sewage related planning is done.
  • In smaller towns, municipal authorities have access to sufficient funds for “external” development if the OPP-RTI model is accepted. Local government agencies also have basic engineering expertise and this can be further enhanced by training at the OPP-RTI. A partnership between people and government agencies as has been demonstrated on a large scale, is possible in these towns. In larger cities where sophisticated engineer-dominated specialised agencies exist, such a partnership is not possible to begin with. However, as sanitation work in a settlement expands, a contact between the NGO/CBO carrying out the work and the government’s agency in-charge of water and sewerage becomes inevitable. If the replication project is large enough and successful enough, this contact develops into a dialogue and subsequently to mutual understanding, if not to collaboration.
  • The creation of surveying, levelling, mapping and documentation and planning skills within a community leads to the creation of a more equitable relationship between government agencies and CBOs. People who acquire these skills move on to create institutions around them and this in turn leads to development within the settlement. These institutions become a gathering place for people, activists and dialogue.
  • In Karachi, where a large number of replication initiatives have been consolidated, CBOs have gone on to do other things and have taken control of their neighbourhoods and settlements. If they are put in contact with each other, they learn from each other and expand their work. If a network of these CBOs is created, and supported by city level NGOs, academics and concerned citizens, it can become a major force in determining policy directions, especially if it can put across its views on the basis of scientific research and planning alternatives. This process is taking place in Karachi in a big way but for it to become irreversible policy it has to be nurtured.
  • Once the work of CBOs consolidates they realise that many of their problems are related to larger city planning issues. However, the understanding of these city planning issues and participation in promoting pro-poor solutions to them can only become possible if there is an active NGO in the city that carries out research on these issues, promotes alternatives, and involves CBO activists in it. Karachi is lucky that the Urban Resource Centre performs this role for the city and is in constant dialogue with the technical departments of the city government. A similar centre has been set up in Lahore and more are in the offing.
  • Government officials and agencies respond positively if research findings and development alternatives are supported by large scale on site work and large scale public involvement, even though they may have serious reservations regarding the alternatives. Where powerful contractors, consultants and interests of international loan pushing agencies exist, the reservation regarding the alternatives turn into active opposition, as in the case of the ADB funded KWWMP in Karachi.
  • The informal sector is an important player in delivery of services and financial and technical support to poor communities. This sector operates on a very large scale. Government and donor programmes cannot replace this sector except at a project level. However, they can support this sector through research and extension of technical advice, credit and managerial training. If this is accompanied by increasing the awareness of communities regarding what should be their relationship with the informal sector, then a more equitable relationship between communities and the sector can be achieved. This is what the OPP-RTI programmes have succeeded in doing in Orangi and in the replication projects.
  • Through its work with other NGOs, the OPP-RTI has learnt that large funds for small NGOs result in destroying those NGOs since they do not have the capacity to utilise those funds properly and also because such large funds are seldom reliable. Once they are stopped, the NGO cannot function any more and its activists and staff search for alternative livelihood. In addition, there are always donor agencies and big NGOs searching for smaller grass root NGOs and CBOs who can promote their programmes. In OPP-RTI’s experience these smaller NGOs very soon become the implementers of the programmes of the donor rather than developing and sustaining their own programmes.
  • It can also be easily seen that government functionaries who are associated initially with the development of innovative projects have considerable loyalty to them. However, their replacements are indifferent, if not openly hostile, to such initiatives.
  • The manner in which government agencies function is deeply rooted in well established routines and procedures. Similarly, engineers are educated conventionally and are not interested in innovative work. Thus, the normal functioning of government development work is not disrupted by transfers of officials, but that of unconventional work certainly is.

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