“One Home, One Toilet” and thousand possibilities to built it!

toilets

As a volunteer architect at Shelter Associates, I was interested in observing how the urban poor live in Pune. As part of the “One Home, One Toilet” project, I also wanted to see what impacts the construction of an individual toilet had on small spaces and what percentage of space in a house was dedicated to daily personal hygiene.
In order to determine this impact, I began to measure randomly selected houses: 61 houses from 4 slums in which Shelter Associates is/ has been active – Prem Nagar and Rajiv Gandhi Nagar in Pune, Rajendra Nagar in Kolhapur and Idgah Nagar in Sangli/Miraj – were included in this sample. While taking these measurements, I gathered information about how space in the house was used before the construction of the toilet and how much money the family spent on the construction of the toilet and on other improvements to the house.

From then on, I didn’t go into the field without my tape measure and I always insisted on understanding how space within the home was utilized before and after the construction of the individual toilet.

The houses included in my sample measure, by average, 212 sq ft (19.7 m2) and are occupied by an average of approximately 4.6 people; this means that one person has only 46 sq ft (4.3 m2) at his or her disposal.

Due to limited interior space, I noticed that slum dwellers use the space in front of their doors as the extension of their homes. Indeed, lots of activities take place in the streets, from clothes washing to grain sorting. It is also a place to chat with family members or neighbors and a playground for children.

Most of the households for which Shelter Associates provided material to build an individual toilet had a bathroom in their home prior to construction of their toilet. These bathrooms were used purely as washrooms, while defecation took place in community toilet blocks.

From my investigations, I discovered that before Shelter Associates’ intervention, the bath area measured an average of 15 sq ft (1.4 m2) and occupied 7% of the house; after intervention, the newly-built toilet and bathroom area measured 29 sq ft (2.7 m2) and took up 13.5 % of the house area. Despite the small size of their houses, Shelter beneficiaries were willing to devote more space within their home for an individual toilet.

Moreover, I found that, while the average monthly income of the selected households is Rs. 10,600, the beneficiaries spent an average of Rs. 29,000 on toilet construction and home renovations. This amount of money includes labor charges and extra material needed, like tiles, bricks and cement.

In the settlements I visited, the bathroom was usually a space inside the house defined by a half-length or full-length brick wall. In order to provide additional privacy, metal containers were sometimes stacked on top of half-length walls or a curtain was hung over the door opening. In most cases, the new toilet was an enclosed space – Shelter Associates considers the toilet complete only if it has a door – built at the location of the former bathroom and combining a bath area and a toilet. However, the bathroom space and the toilet could also be located in separate spaces. In fact, toilets have different dimensions and are equipped differently according to each house’s size and layout as well as household’s needs and financial means. That is what makes visiting so many houses in different settlements so fun!

 The former bathroom and the new combined toilet and bathroom.
     The former bathroom and the new combined toilet and bathroom.

During my field visits, I was struck by how every informal settlement is different depending on its surroundings and its location within the city. Prem Nagar, for instance, is a settlement located in the city center of Pune, squeezed between the Market Yard and housing complexes, and is organized lengthways along access roads. All houses in the settlement are pucca or semi-pucca – houses built of hard material like bricks – and the house improvements resulting from the construction of the toilet were in most cases only inside of the house to be seen.

 

Rajiv Gandhi Nagar – a settlement located in a peri-urban area alongside the Mula Mutha river – was composed exclusively of kutcha houses – houses built of impermanent material like tin sheets – before Shelter Associates’ intervention. Construction of individual toilets brought major changes to people’s lives, as it provided the impetus for households to rebuild homes using bricks and concrete (pucca) material. These improvements bring additional comfort in everyday life, not only because the household now has access to their own toilet, but also because pucca walls provide greater protection from rain, wind and heat. In some houses, meals were prepared on the floor as the household wasn’t equipped with a kitchen platform. These households took advantage of the construction work to build a kitchen platform. You’ll probably be surprised as well at the outstanding creativity some of the inhabitants showed in the building process!

nice toilets

While most households in Prem Nagar and in Rajiv Gandhi Nagar constructed a single space for both the bathroom and the toilet, in Rajendra Nagar and Idgah Nagar, some households constructed separate spaces. To my surprise, while the bathroom was accessible from the inside of the house, many residents chose to construct access to the toilet exclusively from the outside of the house. It is a choice that might not make sense for some of us, especially considering the pouring rain the area gets during rainy season. Slum dwellers, however, often have hygienic concerns about constructing a toilet inside their homes. Some of them, for example, fear the bad smell that could result in the use of the toilet. In Prem Nagar, some inhabitants told me they were afraid that rodents might crawl out of the toilet pan or that the drainage line might get choked. Some residents also thought that it was unhygienic to eat and cook next to the toilet. The households that were already using their toilet didn’t report any problems, however, and they were happy with the new facility.

In Idgah Nagar, a middle-aged woman said that even though she had constructed a toilet in her house two months earlier, which her children use, she had yet to use the toilet. After defecating in the open for 40 years – the settlement doesn’t have any community toilet blocks – , she had not yet adapted to having a toilet in her home. However, she said that she used the toilet at her work place without problems.

It has been observed that slum dwellers – especially adults – who are used to defecating in the open or using the community toilet blocks, will need up to two months to start using the toilet. That’s why Shelter Associates tries to encourage people to use the toilet by talking about the issue in focused group discussion with the community and by organizing street plays on the topic.

In Idgah Nagar, I heard several other interesting stories. One family explained that construction of the toilet had brought the wife and children back to the house. The wife didn’t want to live with her husband because his house didn’t have a toilet. She came back to her husband’s house with their two children immediately after completion of the toilet. Another family decided to build a brick house equipped with a toilet in place of the bamboo house they had been living in: their son was able to get married because of the nice house they now lived in.

Providing the urban poor with the opportunity to construct an individual toilet isn’t only about improving sanitary conditions in slums; it is also about inspiring residents to make other positive improvements to their lives and their homes! It is about fostering creativity and empowering the urban poor.

If you would like to know more about the “One Home, One Toilet” project, please check out our flyers on the website for more interesting stories.

It only remains for me to thank Reshma, Aishwarya, Pradeep, Dhananjay, Mohan, Noorjahan and Shubah from Shelter Associates for accompanying me in the field and for translating from Marathi to English. Thanks to Moira for proofreading my texts. Finally, I also would like to express my gratitude to the whole Shelter Associates team for their kindness and for giving me the opportunity to do these very interesting investigations.

Blog written by guest blogger, Laurence Beuchat.

Laurence

Seems like it’s time to grow young again!

Blog post by guest blogger Chinmay Katke.

On 1st August, the birth anniversary of Late Annabhau Sathe, in Rajiv Gandhi Nagar, Pimple Gurav, we witnessed a very innovative program which saw community children coming together to raise awareness regarding the necessity of individual toilets and hygiene. As a new volunteer at Shelter Associates, I was thrilled at the prospect of working with these children. I had never worked with children from slum settlements before that day and the experience that I underwent will never be forgotten. A member of a small team of three, I was really excited to have gotten the opportunity to take a peek into these eager minds.

The workshop began with an awareness rally where kids promoted health, hygiene & cleanliness by holding placards and urging elder people to join them. Then a ‘Baal-Panchaayat’ was arranged where kids were engaged in conversation with the authorities in charge. PCMC Chief Engineer, Mr. Sanjay Kulkarni, Pimple Gurav Police Inspector, Mr. Shinde and Shabana Diler of Shelter Associates, aptly answered all the daring queries raised by the young minds. After the serious discussion, the kids enjoyed a drawing competition where they poured their fresh ideas onto paper with the right competitive spirit. Later we conducted an exercise where kids painted the plastered walls of newly built individual toilets by Shelter Associates with different murals. I felt like I had been thrown back into my childhood for those two hours. The program ended with everyone enjoying tasty snacks. I was overcome with a feeling of content.

There were a few moments that caught my attention during the busy day. During the Panchaayat a 7 year old young lady held the mic and urged everyone to not call her settlement, a zopadpatti (slum). We could see they had strong faith, that even through the difficulties, there is a way out with all of us working together. The drawing competition also was a clear reflection of their views about the entire issue. Finally, when the kids had a moment of self-evaluation after a busy day of having fun, we saw the determination to bring the desired change in their bright eyes. As grownups, it’s often difficult to explain something to adults, but the kids absorbed issues very quickly while teaching us a lot. Here is an essence of the discussions that kids had with the authorities…

Open defecation and the diseases spread by its improper treatment is a problem that causes discomfort on daily basis. This becomes a major crisis due to the lack of awareness about the topic. While the Government and Administration are trying their best to make the basic amenities available to all, some efforts at the individual or group level are essential. NGOs like Shelter Associates play a vital role in mobilizing people towards a better cause. Mr. Kulkarni insisted everyone on participating in Shelter’s “One Home One Toilet” scheme to see the community liberated from the years old malpractices and the evil cycle that follows.

The zeal and passion that the children showed on that day really moved me. Their little voices contained so much weight that it made me truly understand what our dear artiste Pablo Picasso always told us.. “Every child is an artist. The problem is to stay one while growing up..”

Seems like it’s time to grow young again!

One Home, One Toilet, Three Cities

Shelter Associates’ vision for India of One Home, One Toilet has taken a step forward as the initiative is taking root in two other municipal authorities in Maharashtra.  These two additional areas are quite different to Pune meaning that very soon Shelter Associates model for sustainable slum sanitation should be demonstrable in different contexts: (1) a large urban area, (2) a small urban area, and (3) a semi-urban/semi-rural settlement.

World Toilet Day 2013

On Monday 25th November 2013 Shelter Associates attended an event hosted by the Observer Research Foundation on the subject of sanitation.  The event was scheduled to mark World Toilet Day on the 19th November but had to be postponed by 7 days as several important invitees were unavailable on the day itself.

Shelter Associates presented their unique methodology for facilitating access to sanitation in slums in the context of a city-wide slum sanitation project in Pune which is currently being implemented with the support of Dasra.  The presentation focussed on Shelter Associates’ process for facilitating the construction of individual toilets in the most vulnerable slums of Pune:

1. The identification and verification of eligible slum settlements

2. The collection and spatial organisation of slum level information

3. The vulnerability index calculation

4. The collection and spatial organisation of household and family member data

5. Focus Group Discussions (FGD’s), workshops, and community meetings

6. The targeted construction of individual toilets and the establishment of a solid waste collection system

Shelter Associates’ data informed approach is not only a cost-effective way to address the pressing issue of open defecation and open dumping (and all health, hygiene, safety, education and employment associated issues) but it is also quick to deliver; using this model, Shelter Associates where able to make one of the slums in Pune Open Defecation Free with only one month of construction activity.

The first O.D.F. slum

In September 2013 Shelter Associates transformed a slum known as Rajiv Gandhi Nagar into an Open Defecation Free area by facilitating the construction of 52 individual toilets as part of the Pune city-wide slum sanitation project; which is itself part of Shelter Associates’ ‘One Home, One Toilet’ vision for India. Each individual toilet took approximately 2-days to construct, meaning that this slum was made open defecation free within a 4-week period; which is significantly quicker than the implementation of community toilets, commonly promoted as the most suitable sanitation option but associated with: (1) the finding and acquiring of land (which is not always available), (2) lengthy tenders, (3) long construction phases, (4) high capital costs, (5) long queues, and (6) on-going maintenances costs/issues.

The community are now benefitting from having access to their own improved sanitation which is:
(1) safer – the women are much less likely to be harassed or abused, (2) more hygienic – the family are less likely to fall ill, (3) healthier – the children are less likely to contract diarrhoea and therefore, are more likely to have a healthy development, (4) enlightening – the children are less likely to miss school through illness, and (5) better for the families financial situation – the earning member of the family are less likely to be absent from work through illness and also less likely to require medical treatment.

Shelter Associates experience in the sanitation sector indicates that providing access to sanitation on an individual family basis (or shared amongst a few families) is the only cost-effective option that is both scalable and sustainable, and can address India slum sanitation problem in a permanent and meaningful way. One Home, One Toilet.

Portable toilets are tested in the slums

During June and July two different types of individual toilet, which were supplied by 3S Shramik, were tested in Khulewadi (29th June 2013) and Rajiv Gandhi Nagar (9th July 2013) as part of the city-wide slum sanitation project.  The two models were: (1) a polyethylene toilet and (2) a fibre reinforced plastic toilet (FRP).  The tests were conducted in relation to this project as both toilet types are one homogenous unit which can be delivered to site as one complete piece which would have obvious advantages for a project where 1,500 individual toilets are bing provided in pilot slums in each of the 15 administrative wards of the city over the next three years (2014, 2015 and 2016).

The tests showed that both systems can be installed within 6 hours, including the connection to the municipal drainage system and the necessary alterations to the slum huts to provide space to accommodate the toilet.  The main issue which arose with these types of toilet were associated with the ventilation of the space inside the toilet.  Revised designs are being worked out by Shelter Associates and 3S Shramik for another phase of tests.

Mobile App slum data entry trials begin

On 16th August 2013 Shelter Associates commence trials of the Shelter Associates survey mobile application.  Shelter Associates community workers took a tablet computer into the slums and tested the system of uploading slum data direct to the Shelter Associates on-line data collection system.

Shelter Associates have created city profiles for Pune and Sangli & Miraj which are hosted on the Shelter Associates website and are maintaned and updated by Shelter Associates on a regular basis.  Each city profile contains information for all slums within the municipal area including: the land ownership, development plan reservations, development plan zoning proposals, approximate area, population, location, topography, in addition to detailed data regarding services such as toilets, water, solid waste management, drainage and roads and access.  The information is freely available for everyone including city administrations.

To support the on-line city profiles, the NGO has developed an on-line survey system where all collected data can be input, and recently Shelter Associates has developed a mobile application which allows data to be uploaded to the on-line survey system by a surveyor with a smart phone in a slum, ward office, or any other location.

Gulbarga visit

On 8th August 2013 Shelter Associates sent a team to Gulbarga in Karnataka to review a sanitation project currently underway by the Green Sanitation Foundation (GSF).  The GSF toilet system in Gulbarga uses enzymes and nutrients to accelerate the natural process of bacterial decomposition to reduces human excrement and urine into low grade water that can be output into the ground soil or into surface water drainage systems.

This project is of interest to Shelter Associates due to the potential of its application in situations where drainage connections are not available, such as peri-urban environments (Sangli & Miraj) and slums and informal settlements in urban areas which are not connected to the municipal drainage system (Cham Cham Nagar in Pune).

Ultimately the Shelter Associates team could not determine if the technology was working as the project had only been running for 2 months and it takes at least 3 months for the faeces and urine to be decomposed to water, disinfected, and emitted from the 300 litre tank beneath the toilet.

 

Precast concrete toilet trials in Khulewadi

On 25th May 2013 three precast individual toilets were installed by Larsen & Toubro in Khulewadi, Pune.  As part of the city-wide slum sanitation project Shelter Associates have been exploring technologies which could be beneficial to the installation of the 1,500 individual toilets required by the project.  Shelter Associates met with Larsen & Toubro at their office in Andheri East (Mumbai) to discuss the design of an individual toilet which would be made out of precast concrete.  Following this meeting Shelter Associates were invited by Larson & Toubro to visit their precast concrete factory in Khopoli (approximately half way between Pune and Mumbai) to inspect the prototype prior to on-site trials.

Three precast concrete individual toilets were then installed in Khulewadi and the following issues were observed: (1) the structure is designed to a very high specification and therefore is almost twice the cost of the current brick and mortar solution.  (2) The units were not easy to install as the base was cast as one piece which was 1m2 and very heavy to lift.  (3) The precast individual toilets cannot be wheeled through narrow lanes which is a major drawback as the majority of the lanes in slums are narrow therefore this design would only be applicable in a minority of situations.

Waste collection starts at Khulewadi

During a focus group discussion on 24th June 2013, with senior women in the Khulewadi community, it was decided that a ghanta ghadi solid waste collection system would start at the beginning of July 2013.  The ghanta ghadi solid waste collection system commenced on 1st July 2013.

The service is provided at a cost of 30 rupees per family per month and allows the slum families to hand their household waste to a person who walks through the slum with a ghanta ghadi (trolley or small vehicle).  The effectively means that the slum dwellers of Khulewadi are paying to getting access to a service which is available (at the same cost) to all other citizens of the city and it also means that less waste will be deposited on the open land which surrounds the community on three sides.

To complement this waste collection service bins were handed out on the 27th July 2013.  Each family received two receptacles so that they can segregate their ‘wet’ household waste from their ‘dry’ household waste; that is to say their biodegradable waste from their non-biodegradable waste.