Effective Community-Led Redevelopment: Karachi, Pakistan

Effective Community-Led Redevelopment: Karachi, Pakistan (Hasan, 2002)

The Orangi Township is located in the District West of Karachi, one of Pakistan’s major urban centers. The township itself consists of a diverse population numbering greater than one million, all clustered onto approximately 8,200 acres of land – a narrow focal point within the larger frame of Pakistan’s struggle to provide for the growing informal urban sprawl that first exploded in the 1970s. While a small fraction of the township was formally developed by the city’s Development Authority division, the majority consists of “katchi abadis”, or illegal, unplanned, and informal divisions of state territory into settlements with generally “substandard infrastructure” (Hasan, 2002) much like that of Monwabisi Park, particularly in regard to sewage systems. The Katchi Abadi Improvement and Regularization Programme (KAIRP), a local government aid initiative, was created to provide infrastructure and land leases to katchi abadi residents. However, though the programme displays sporadic success, major roadblocks in the forms of insufficient community involvement, excessive complexity that promotes corruption, and failure to acknowledge existing infrastructure have generally slowed any significant progress.

The Orangi Pilot Project was thus established in 1980 by the Pakistani social scientist Akhtar Hameed Khan in response to these conditions. The project’s broad objectives were to understand the area’s problems and their causes, develop solutions based on community management, finance, and building capabilities, and design models that consider the sociology, economics, and culture of low-income communities. The Project identified four major areas of concern: sanitation and housing quality, employment, health, and education. It then subdivided itself accordingly into a Charitable Trust, a Health and Social Development Association, a Society that channels charitable funding, and the Research and Training Institute (OPP-RTI). As “sanitation was the major problem identified by Orangi residents” (Hasan, 2002), the OPP-RTI’s Sanitation Programme became one of the project’s primary focuses.

The OPP-RTI Sanitation Programme outlined four “barriers” between outside aid, such as themselves, and the community: the Psychological Barrier, the Social Barrier, the Economic Barrier, and the Technical Barrier. They then developed a methodology that treated each respectively by

  1. Illuminating that infrastructural development is not solely for government agencies.
  2. Organizing a cohesive system of 20-40 house “lanes”, each led by a local “lane manager”.
  3. Promoting community-based funding by whittling the necessary community contribution to an affordable Rs 900 (US $16.50) per household.
  4. Ensuring the availability of appropriate designs, estimates, tools, and training.

In light of these considerations, they designed an “internal-external sanitation concept” that outlines the four levels of the community’s sanitation system according to where their financial, managerial, construction and maintenance responsibilities lie. In-house sanitary latrines, underground lane sewers, and neighborhood collector sewers are all “internal”, or community led, while the trunk sewer and treatment plant at the farthest end of the system requires the “external” aid of the government or NGOs. The realization of this design followed a progression which began with extensive research into the sociology, economics, and evolution of Orangi and progressed through pertinent technical study, documentation of implementation problems, causes, and resolutions, and further investigation into alternative sewage systems in the larger context of the region. Thus far, the Project’s efforts have produced latrines and sewage systems for 6,082 out of 7,256 lanes, as well as 409 collection sewers, from a community investment of Rs 80.664 million (US $1.5 million) – an expenditure seven times less than that estimated for government-led efforts.

Since its commencement, the OPP model has been adopted in multiple other settings, including 46 other Karachi settlements, seven Pakistani towns and a handful of rural areas, as well as regions in Nepal, Central Asia, Sri Lanka, and South Africa, with varying success. Where the model proved fruitless, several key factors were implicated in its breakdown, including: abandonment by imported technical professionals as other opportunities arise, failure to manage large monetary donations and expand accordingly, subsidization, failure to seek advice from OPP or other parent organizations, failure to share information with the community, and lack of patience. Likewise, evaluation of productive implementations produced “keys to success” such as: community-led technical teams, community leaders who promoted effective communication between residents and government, the availability of accurate regional mapping and adequate community funding, and the maintenance of patience, transparency, and consistent communication among all parties involved.

To date, cumulative review of the Project and its global offshoots has produced a few core conclusions for consideration in our own planning for Monwabisi Park:

  • “Communities are already trying to solve their problems and if they are supported by technical advice and managerial guidance, their solutions will improve… Development does not take place with funds. It takes place through the development of skills, self-reliance and dignity.” (Hasan, 2002). Therefore NGOs, support agencies, and trained professionals are primarily educators, and must have a deep understanding of the community and knowledge of the context, particularly though mapping and documentation of physical conditions. In addition, plans should provide for feasibility (especially financial) first and the ideal later, while maintaining transparency within the community. In light of these lessons, we should make full use of last year’s detailed surveying on water and sanitation conditions within the Park, as well as collaborate with this year’s Mapping and Communications teams to be as completely educated on the Park and its residents’ efforts and expectations as possible. We should then design our project so that our implementations may be ably maintained by the community after our departure. This includes a practical approach with heavy community involvement and education throughout.
  • Many local governments are ready and willing to change, however they and other outside agencies must learn to participate within the community’s structure and not the other way around. Therefore, in collaborating with the government and professionals, we must keep an open mind to their equally difficult position on Monwabisi Park affairs while still encouraging a willingness to adopt new relief strategies.