Habitat Observatory

    Bringing Toilets Home
  SavdaGhevra, one of Delhi’s biggest resettlement colonies born out of a massive wave of evictions during the 2010 Commonwealth games, does not include any sanitation arrangements. Hence sanitation tops the list of concerns for the evicted people. The current average of 1 public latrine for 250 women forces most inhabitants to the humiliation of open defecation. A practice which not only raises serious health concerns but also adversely affects women, making them more vulnerable to sexual harassment.

The Potty Project started in 2010 by NGO CURE and an architect and PhD candidate Julia King, with the immediate objective of addressing sanitation needs of SavdaGhevra’s 20,000 families. The major innovation of the project lies in its ambition; going beyond the common view that community toilets are enough to meet the sanitation needs of the poor, the project retrofits toilets to the homes of a pilot cluster of 322 households, proving that in-house toilets can be a viable and a cost-effective option.

Conventional sewerage uses pipes laid deep beneath the ground, as it relies on gravity as the driving force for flow. Its construction, operation and maintenance costs are high, making it unsuitable and unsustainable for low-income communities. The Potty Project aims to offer an alternative, low-cost sanitation system that could be replicated in other low-income settlements. The unconventional sewerage system is most suitable for prohibitively small size of the plots - 12 to 18 sqm.

Simplified sewerage systems are comparatively less costly than conventional ones, because they use small-diameter sewers laid at shallow depth. In the Potty Project, these sewers are connected to a community septic tank, which permits to share the cost of the system among households. The community tank is connected to a simplified decentralized treatment system that treats the effluent before discharge. Anticipating densification, the project’s decentralized system can later be connected to conventional sewerage, when the city expands its infrastructure.

Constant community participation shaped the project. Residents were represented by street leaders who provided a connection between them and the NGO. An operation and maintenance team comprising elected members from the community was formed and trained to manage the infrastructure. Given the diversity of dwelling units, the NGO had to take into account the specificities of each and every house. Adopting a comprehensive outlook on sanitation, the NGO also provided home-upgrading technical assistance workshops to residents, particularly to assist them with retrofitting the toilet to their house.

The positive outcomes of the project were not only in terms of infrastructure, but also of community strengthening and capacity building. The collective energy that was generated during the project culminated in the creation of a Resident Welfare Association (RWA) which is formerly recognized by the State as a link between residents and local governments.

The Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) has given its support for the implementation of the project, and is looking forward to scaling it up to the master plan level. The project has also been shortlisted for the World Design Impact Prize 2013-2014, after being awarded a Holcim Foundation Prize in 2011.

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    Affordable Housing for the Poor
  Despite ‘affordable housing’ becoming a buzzword in the Indian construction sector today, many of the urban poor are still underserved by the market. For people belonging to the lowest income group and bearing the brunt of the Indian urban housing deficit, self/incremental construction remains the primary provider of truly affordable housing. A well-designed house provides a healthy environment for children and adults alike to develop, but at the same time it can also be a workshop, and additional space can be created for rental purposes to generate extra-income. It stands as a proof of credit-worthiness and facilitates access to finance.

Yet, financial constraints, coupled with local masons’ lack of awareness about practices that could make buildings more resistant to time and natural disasters, prevent the poor communities housing investments from achieving their full potential. Self-built houses are often structurally unsafe, lack adequate lighting and ventilation.

micro Home Solutions (mHS), a small social enterprise based in Delhi, endeavours to facilitate access to finance and technical assistance for self-construction in low-income settlements, where lack of clear title over land or limited ownership act as a deterrent for financial institutions to serve potential customers. mHS uses the city as a laboratory to develop innovative, comprehensive and scalable housing solutions for the urban poor. Informed by its experience of piloting a project that brought finance and technical assistance to 12 households in Mangolpuri resettlement colony, Delhi, in 2010, the mHS team decided to shift its focus away from the home-owner to the local masons, crucial stakeholders in diffusion of good building practices to the informal construction sector.

Launched in September 2012 as a Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Commitment, mhS’ Technical Assistance Kiosk (TeaK) project strives to turn self-construction into a supplier of quality housing for the urban poor, by making architectural and engineering support services available to local masons through a network of Technical Assistance Kiosks. The project started as a pilot in Ahmedabad in partnership with NGOs, SAATH and MHT SEWA. It committed to reaching out to 1000 households with design and technical assistance in its pilot year.

The main challenge for the team was to design training tools and sessions tailored to the needs of masons having little familiarity with the classroom format, and more comfortable with on-the-ground learning.

Presently Sarvajal serves 100,000 people daily in over 6 states and has created 400+ jobs that encourage safe water practices in local communities. Thesocial enterprise plans to deliver clean water to 1 million households of rural and urban India.

Taking this into account, mHS designed a primarily graphic training manual. This was complemented with more interactive learning materials such as board games and quizzes, which would make up for engaging training sessions. The training package was put to test during a 3-day workshop in the Khodiyarnagar settlement in Ahmedabad in July 2013, as precursor to a 2-month training programme offered by SAATH. The 16 masons who attended the training responded very positively to the training tools the team had developed. This experience confirmed the suitability of graphic training manual.

If successful in Ahmedabad, the TeaK project could be scaled up to the national level, and thus contribute to upgrading of building practices in the low-income segment.

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