People Building Better Cities

On Friday 20th September 2013 Shelter Associates took part in the Global Studio ‘People Building Better Cities’ discussion, which was an international travelling exhibition, at Studio X-Mumbai; Studio-X is a global network linked with Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. Shelter Associates gave a presentation that focussed on their working methodology and played their short film titled Inclusive Planning for the Urban Poor, which covers the 4 main characteristics of inclusive planning.
1. Data and the spatial organization of the collected slum data to ensure the creation of an accurate profile of the city and the settlement – this ensures that designs suit the situation and not the stereotype.
2. A city-wide approach to ensure the efficient use of land, and ensure that all slums including non-designated slums and slums in non-buildable zones (or in flood areas) are included.
3. Community participation to ensure that beneficiaries are invested in the proposal and establish a dialogue – as part of this process Shelter Associates conduct workshops and focus group discussions to support all physical interventions.
4. Monitoring to ensure the timely implementation of the project.

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.

Google Impact Challenge India 2013

Shelter Associates were among 10 finalists who presented to a panel of judges on the 31st October 2013 as part of the Google Global Impact Awards 2013.  Shelter Associates proposed a project for the targeted installation of individual toilets, informed by digital slum mapping, in Sangli & Miraj with the intention of making the peri-urban area India’s first open defecation free city.  The proposed project and project methodology is largely the same as the one proposed to the Dasra Giving Circle in February earlier this year but has one important difference – the individual toilets would be connected to bio-digester tanks which turn the vast majority of human excrement into water.  The addition of this sanitation technology is required as Sangli & Miraj, and many other areas of India (urban, peri-urban and rural) are not served be sewage systems.

Shelter Associates were not selected as 1 of the 4 winners but were awarded 1.5 crores, along with the other 6 finalists, as the competition was very close and judges felt that each project should receive some funding.

Shelter Associates appreciate the runner-up award and will put the 1.5 crores to the best possible use, in accordance with the goal of facilitating India’s first open defecation free city.  Shelter Associates aim is that this project (in an peri-urban area with no municipal sewage system) and the Pune city-wide slum sanitation project (in a large urban area) will illustrate the feasibility of individual toilets as a sanitation option and, hopefully, will impact the National Urban Sanitation Policy and move city administrators away from community toilets which are associated with high capital costs and high maintenance costs and commonly fail to provide a long-lasting impact.

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.

Focus Group Discussions are added to the model

Shelter Associates understand that community participation is an essential component of inclusive planning.  It has been observed by the NGO that without effective community involvement, support and understanding projects fail to achieve tangible long-lasting change and ultimately fail in their objective of slum rehabilitation.  This is why Shelter Associates invest a significant amount of time and energy into establishing and nurturing effective working relationships with all stakeholders of their projects, especially the slum dwellers who are after all the end users of the designs and occupiers and caretakers of the projects.  These relationships are the unseen element of Shelter Associates projects; they are the ‘software’ components which support the ‘hardware’ interventions, such as new housing, new individual toilets and solid waste collection schemes.  Workshops are integral to the software component of the project and have now been expanded in scope to include FGDs.

The FGDs are informal gatherings of small groups of people who are of the same gender and approximate age.  This format not only allows for issues specific to that demographic to be discussed but, due to the informal and intimate nature of the gathering, it also means that more sensitive topics can be discussed; questions, statements and admissions that would not normally be said in a large formal meeting with all members of the community are freely relayed and discussed sensitively and compassionately with Shelter Associates social workers.  These sessions provide insight into the behaviour of people who live without access to toilets and allows Shelter Associates to ascertain the communities current experience, awareness and understanding of the issues of open defecation including the associated issues of sexual harassment, menstrual health, nutrition, violent assault and gender insensitivity.