Habitat Observatory

    Sustainable Community Owned Total Sanitation
  DubbaThanda, a small tribal hamlet of ElakaramGramaPanchayat in SuryapetMandal of Nalgonda District, Andhra Pradesh, India was chosen by the ArthikSamataMandal (ASM) Plan India to pilot the Sustainable Community Owned Total Sanitation (SCOTS) approach. The approach has been developed based on the analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of Community Led Total Sanitation and other approaches.

The hamlet, comprising of 40 tribal families belonging to the backward community, was purposely selected to understand the effectiveness of the approach in a particularly difficult region.

SCOTS aim was to achieve total sanitised communities by adopting low-cost sustainable solutions while discouraging promotion of high cost design and inputs. Subsidy for Below Poverty Line (BPL) families to procure essential materials, credit for medium-income groups and teaching technical know-how to elite groups were main elements of the approach. The approach emphasised on developing appropriate institutional arrangements at the village level for sustainable sanitation.

Adoption of SCOTS at DubbaThanda led to formation of basic institutional arrangements at the community level forming CBOs, SHGs, children’s club, youth group, school health committee and village health committees. Strong links between the people’s institutions, local Gram Panchayat and government departments were formed to strengthen the process of change. The community led the implementation of the activities, with assistance from the ArthikSamataMandal (ASM). Participatory exercises were organised to map out the existing issues and solutions.

There were also periodic discussions with the community to identify the issues and probable solutions for carrying out the work successfully. ASM facilitated the process of conducting awareness and capacity building exercises. Minimal investment such as software support and subsidy to poor families were made for the project. The government provided the village with a water supply scheme as a result of the village committee’s lobbying efforts. The villagers have also taken steps to operate, manage the drinking water source and monitor its quality and usage regularly. All the 40 families have an individual water supply pipe connection and contribute Rs.30/- per month towards operation and management of the system.
Presently, all 40 households have toilets in their homes resulting in an open defecation free village. The practice of safe disposal of waste water and solid waste has been addressed effectively. These interventions have brought about improvements in the hygiene conditions and the overall quality of life among the tribal people. The community is now, not facing any cases of diarrhoea and anaemia.

Recently, the Gram Panchayat was awarded the “Nirmal Gram Puraskar” by the President of India for the achieving total sanitation. The village has become a model for other villages in the area, and several neighbouring communities have requested the Panchayat to start similar projects in their villages.

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    Climate Adaptive Vernacular Construction for High Altitudes
  The traditional village settlement of Bhalyani village is situated in the Lug valley of Kullu district of Himachal Pradesh, India and is at an altitude of 1952 meters above the sea level. The traditional dwellings in the village have developed from the functional requirements of the region and availability of suitable building materials and construction techniques. It has evolved over centuries to provide comfort to the occupants from extreme cold.

The key architectural features of these buildings are as follows:

Shape of the Buildings: These dwellings are typically two floors high with linear arrangement of rooms, connected by verandah/balcony, on both the floors. The ground floor is for cattle shed and storage areas. The upper level, all the living areas are provided along the cooking area / kitchen; this helps in keeping the surrounding rooms warm during cool nights. All the wet areas are normally kept separate from the living areas. All the habitable rooms, verandah and balconies are oriented towards the south, east and west to facilitate receiving maximum solar heat during day time, which are stored in the thermal mass of the dwellings to keep the interiors warmer during nights. The height of the rooms is generally kept lower (2.1 - 2.4 m). The low ceiling height helps to keep the interior of the rooms warmer from the heat released by the inhabitants. Also this contributes to the low surface-to-volume ratio of these dwelling units and thus reducing the heat loss from its surfaces.

Fenestration: Small size openings are provided in the rooms of the dwellings with operable timber and glass shutters. No openings are provided in the northern side to avoid the cool winter air. These features also help in solar heat-gain in winter and prevent heat-loss during cooler nights.

Walls: The walls are made of stone masonry and timber with thickness of 45-60 cm. This traditional style of wall construction is known as ‘Kath-Khuni’ or ‘Dhajji-wall’ construction method. This style of wood-and-stone construction technique is both practical and aesthetically pleasing. By systematic process of layering and interlocking the locally available timber and stone materials, the construction becomes inherently strong, stable and flexible making them suitable for mountainous terrain prone to earthquakes. These heavy walls allow very good thermal insulation by providing high time-lag of more than 8 hours. This makes the interior of the house cooler in summer and warm in winter for maximum part of the year.

Flooring: Mud and cow-dung are used for flooring on the ground floor above the plinth which is made of random rubble masonry. The upper floors are made of timber planks and timber-joists. The use of timber also prevents/ reduces heat-gain and heat-loss through floors to a great extent.

Roofing and Rain Protection: Pitched roofs are made with rafters and purlins made from available slender timbers. Roof covering is done with slate made from locally available stones. Below the roof a ceiling is constructed with timber which is used as an attic. The attic is normally used for storing food-grains and also as an abode for God. The light-weight roof construction and the air between the roofing and attic-floor provide good thermal insulation against the passage of heat. The heat stored during the day time of the winter, helps to keep the interior warmer during cool winter nights. The region receives sufficient amount of rainfall through the year, hence, the low pitched roof drains off the rain-water from the dwellings. Also the roof-edges are sufficiently projected to protect the wall against damage from rain-water.

Locally relevant construction techniques using materials with less embodied and operational energy provides comfort to the occupants of the settlement for most part of the year without using any artificial and expensive source of energy. Such technologies should be promoted on a wider scale for not only are they less carbon intensive but more user friendly.

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