A community cluster-based sanitation system won the “Next Generation” 3rd prize for Asia Pacific in 2011. Since then, the prize money from the Holcim Awards competition was used to develop the project: to survey the site, engage with an engineer, mobilize the community and support the project author for more than a year.
The fully-developed proposal provides sanitation infrastructure for over 300 households (more than 1,900 people) and has secured funding for the pilot project with construction due to be completed in early October 2013. Funding for the project was obtained from the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust (SDTT), one of the oldest, non-sectarian philanthropic organisations in India, established in 1932 by Sir Dorabji Tata. SDTT encourages learning and research in the country, meets the costs of relief during crises and calamities, and funds selected charitable activities.
The aim of the project is to improve people’s lives through the provision of sanitation which is at the core of dignity and health. The next phase of the project will involve retrofitting households to accommodate the new toilets in Savda Gherva. The aim is to implement a viable system that will become a transferable model sanitation solution for unconnected (off-grid) low-income settlements, especially suited to the context of slum redevelopment and upgrading.
To date the street level infrastructure and DEWAT (Decentralized Wastewater Treatment) has been built which comprises of a series of septic tanks and up-flow filters which once connected to the household toilets will treat the black waste for reuse. The system is capable of conversion to plug in to conventional treatment plants should government plans for sanitation infrastructure proceed in the area. The construction was partially built by trained members of the community and is run by a local (and predominantly female) operation and maintenance team, supported by the Centre for Urban and Regional Excellence (CURE) – the implementing agency which is a local NGO operating in Savda Ghevra since the colony was established in 2006.
The practice of local engagement and an enabling environment builds a certain kind of local civic and political commitment to the collective good. Here, the “politics of the sewer” is turned on its head: humiliation and victimization are transformed into exercises of technical capacity and self-dignification. The next phase of the project will be to assist families to construct toilets within each house. In order to achieve this requires access to microfinance and to design low-cost toilet units.
The pilot project has received coverage in the Indian Express, and was presented by Julia King, architect and doctoral candidate at the London Metropolitan University, and Renu Khosola, Director at the Centre for Urban and Regional Excellence (CURE), at the India International Centre. The imminent arrival of sanitation has also triggered a wave of housing upgrade work. Julia King has also developed a series of concepts for upgrade options that are aligned with the project development.
Prize money from the Holcim Awards competition has also been used to partially-fund a house which contains a water kiosk within Savda Gehvra. The decentralized water treatment plant filters and distributes water locally. Originally from Venezuela, Julia King lived in New Delhi as a teen, and is eager to work on improving infrastructure in the urban conglomerations. “Things have changed drastically in Savda Ghevra since 2010 – this is now a marketplace, and transport services to ferry people to Mundka with access to the Delhi Metro rail,” she said.
Many families remain in temporary (kuchha) structures of bamboo and tarpaulin, citing the financial losses during resettlement, short-term leases and the lack of jobs due to the settlement’s peripheral location, and high personal cost as reasons why they have not built a multi-storey permanent (pucca) dwelling.
Julia King is now working with relocated families and local contractors to design and help build housing that would be structurally safe, technically sound, economical, and capable of being built incrementally. The prototype, inspired by Le Corbusier’s Maison Dom-ino uses structural columns and slabs that can be in-filled in the future. It is hoped that the outcomes and lessons learned from this process will serve as a model for similar applications in other resettlement and upgrading schemes throughout urban India. Current work is ongoing in creating guidelines for large scale master plans for both medium sized cities and new urban developments that will thoroughly test the model.
A video showing the construction in progress filmed in June 2013 is available at: