“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

Slum children soak up sanitation

On the 19th January 2014 children from Indira Nagar Gharkul in Miraj attended a workshop focused on sanitation.  The children are from a slum which was relocated at the beginning of 2013 to allow the construction of houses that will accommodate them and other slum families in proximity of the site which are on land that cannot be redeveloped, according to the local land use plan, for residential purposes.  Their new houses are being constructed as part of Shelter Associates’ city-wide slum housing project in Sangli and Miraj.  36 children attended and put forward their own thoughts regarding sanitation.

 

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.

Women of Pure Wonder

One of Shelter Associates community workers, Noorjahan Kaladagi, was selected as one of the sixty extraordinary Indian women by the Vodafone Foundations and featured in their book ‘Women of Pure Wonder’.  Noorjahan was selected as one of the extraordinary India women as she has faced a disproportionate amount of difficulty and adversity in her life and has always prevailed.  She has become a respected leader in her community, whose integrity is very much intact, and an asset to Shelter Associates.

Click here to watch the full book launch.

AKPBS Book Launch, New Delhi

On 26th November 2013 the Aga Khan Planning and Building Services (AKPBS) launched a book which commemorates an event attended by Shelter Associates in December last year.  Shelter Associates wrote a paper for the publication which focussed on the concept of planning that provides the beneficiaries with access to the planning processes and, as a result, achieves permanent long-lasting change and social elevation to the poor; inclusive planning.

The book is called ‘Design for Everyone: Towards Sustainable Habitats’ and it’s ISBN is: 978-93-5137-746-7.

 

Shelter Associates attends the Aga Khan Planning and Building Services Built Environment Symposium

On 2nd December 2012 Shelter Associates attended the Built Environment Symposium at the National Center for the Performing Arts in Mumbai which was organised by the Aga Khan Planning and Building Services (AKPBS).  At the symposium Shelter Associates played a short film titledInclusive Planning for the Urban Poor’  and presented the design concepts present at the scale of the city, the building, the house, and at the micro level.  Extracts of the presentation are attached below:

 

 

 

 

Bangladesh slum project

On 26th June 2013 Shelter Associates attended a conference in Dhaka, which was sponsored by the World Bank and hosted by the National Housing Authority (NHA) of Bangladesh, to share their experiences of community participation in relation to the implemetation of slum rehabilitation schemes.

Prior to this event on the 25th June Shelter Associate met with members from two slum communities outside of Dhaka and discussed: (1) the arrangement of their current plot/home, (2) their family size and individual family members, (3) the family’s way-of-life, (4) their typical activities across one day, and (5) their aspirations.  After this introduction to the slum communities Shelter Associates reviewed the designs that the community had worked out with the NHA engineers during a previous session, a few minor changes where recommended and accepted by the community members.   Shelter Associates then helped the community to revise their presentation models so that they could explain their designs as part of the conference on the following day (26th June 2013).

During the conference Shelter Associates played their short film ‘Shelter Associates: inclusive approach to urban planning’ which advocates the inclusion of the slum community in all slum rehabilitation schemes as part of sensitive planning, meaning planning which is considerate and recognises slum dwellers umong the stakeholders in the project’s generation, implementation and maintenance.

A community member’s sketch of her plot of land and the cluster of buildings which she and her family occupy.  The toilet (T), kitchen (K) and water tap are all located in a long thin area at the rear of her plot (at the top of the sketch).

Google Earth satellite passes over the IHSDP

In early March this year a Google Earth satellite passed over Sangli & Miraj, the urban area in Maharashtra where Shelter Associates are implementing the Integrated Housing and Slum Development Program (IHSDP) under the Government of India’s Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM).  The resulting satellite photographs, which can be viewed on the Google’s application Google Earth, provides a unique aerial perspective of the construction sites where the site layout can clearly be seen.  The software also records the history of the IHSDP in this area as the historical imagery function on Google Earth allows earlier satellite photographs to be viewed, photographs taken prior to the construction of the new houses when the area was a slum.

Viewing the satellite photographs before and during construction of the new site layout poignantly illustrate the benefits of the new layout: (1) the access for the emergency services will be easier, (2) the capacity of the site has increased (in the case of Sanjay Nagar – from 311 slum huts to 434 apartments) allowing slum communities from nearby slums which either cannot be developed or flood to relocate here in walk up tenements which are G+3, (3) all of the buildings are organised around a central semi-public open space, (4) all of the apartments are organised around a semi-private courtyard, a strategy which allows natural light and natural ventilation to be maximised and minimises the requirement for (expense of) artificial lighting and ventilation, (5) the new buildings are capped with accessible terraces which can be used for a variety of community purposes such as a quiet place for children of the community to study.