Babitha George

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The Gradual Manifestation of a Distant Vision

My colleague Kevin has posted recent updates on the current status of nominating a construction agency for building the toilet facilities in Bhubaneswar and Cuttack. As mentioned, we are waiting on final approvals from the government and are hopeful that we will soon have a contractor confirmed, following which we can start pre-construction activities at the sites. As such, we are hopeful that we will soon break ground and see the beginning of construction.

This has come after several months of tendering activity. The design team that has worked on the various sorts of toilet facilities, have long completed all the requisite work to begin construction. (more…)

Sammaan is looking for a Project Manager

We will soon be hiring a Project Management Company to overlook construction. We are thus looking for an experienced Project Manager to manage their efforts, to represent the project consortium to the government and to oversee the project overall. Please find below a detailed job description for the same, along with job requirements and eligibility criteria.

Project Sammaan_Project Manager_Job Description_4 June

Project Sammaan at the 2014 Reinvent the Toilet Fair

If you thought toilets and shit aren’t popular topics of conversation, you would have been in for a big surprise if you were anywhere around the recent Reinvent the Toilet Fair (RTTF) that happened in March 2014 in New Delhi. In the second edition of the fair (the first was in Seattle in August 2012), more than 700 participants from about 47 countries gathered to discuss how to bring safe sanitation to the 2.5 billion people who lack access to it. The fair in India was co-hosted by the Government of India’s Department of Biotechnology and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, with the support of India’s Ministry of Urban Development, and it showcased innovative products and approaches from various Gates Foundation grantees from across the (more…)

Developing Sammaan’s Toolkit

While there has been a considerable amount of activity in the past few months on the tendering front for the toilet facilities in Bhubaneswar & Cuttack, we have also simultaneously started working on the toolkit. The toolkit is an essential part of Project Sammaan, aiming to put together guidelines for effective sanitation interventions in low-income urban contexts, based on our own experiences and learnings from Project Sammaan.

Through the detailed design exercises and fine-tuning our understanding of what works and what doesn’t work, an essential outcome of the project will be the toolkit, that will include a set of “blueprints” for future infrastructure projects that will be (more…)

Project Sammaan at the Papanek Symposium

In continuation to Ayush’s post about the project dissemination activities, I am sharing my recent experience at the Papanek Symposium in Vienna. The symposium was organised by the Victor J. Papanek Foundation, University of Applied Arts Vienna, and focused on the social and political imperative of design in emerging economies.

Papanek’s landmark book published in 1971, “Design for the Real World”, has been translated into more than 20 languages and is one of the most widely read books on design in the world. Papanek has been a very influential thinker in sustainable design and his approach is even more relevant today.


Community Toilets’ Tender Workflow

In the past few weeks and months, most of the work that has happened on Project Sammaan has involved intense collaboration between various partners in order to fulfill various deliverables for tendering the community toilets in both Bhubaneswar and Cuttack. The very nature of the hardware workstream currently involves sequential and simultaneous inputs from various partners, including Anagram Architects, the Consortium for DEWATS Dissemination (CDD), Codesign, and Arkitechno.

The usual sequence of work involves multiple steps:


Sammaan’s Architectural Uniqueness

In an earlier post, Khyati from Anagram Architects talked about some of the architectural design principles that will be adopted across the toilets in Bhubaneswar & Cuttack.

Here are some additional features across the 92 community toilets that we will build across Bhubaneswar & Cuttack, that will be unique and will facilitate a better user experience:


Menstrual Waste Incineration

As we’ve written about rather extensively, Project Sammaan can be viewed as the implementation phase that builds off of insights gleaned from the year-long research study of India’s urban sanitation facilities, the “Potty Project”. Part of this study involved researching the architectural infrastructure of existing facilities to evaluate where problems were arising and what could be done to alleviate them.

One such area of exploration revolved around menstrual waste disposal and the options that were made available to women and girls. Unfortunately, we found that most facilities do not provide mechanisms for disposal of menstrual waste, nor do they provide communications interventions that foster awareness around sanitary practices regarding menstrual hygiene. As a result, many toilets are blocked by pads and towels women attempted to flush and the facility grounds are littered with used sanitary towels. In several instances, toilet booths were blocked and rendered useless due to sanitary pads being dumped in there.


A Designer’s Perspective on Sammaan

I am part of the design team and coordinate a lot of Quicksand’s input with the architecture team at Anagram Architects (AA). This includes feedback on designs, coordination of various submissions to the BMC and CMC, and managing updates to the same. I also assist in overall project management, while coordinating inputs to J-PAL on several aspects of software.

A typical day for me consists of several phone calls with Siva and AA and other partners to facilitate various aspects of the project. It also involves writing a few emails about design perspectives to share with partners, as well as writing for, and reviewing, various communication deliverables on the project.


Sammaan and India’s Future

The future of sanitation in urban slums in India will continue to be a challenge. While government policy clearly mandates individual housing for slum-dwellers in the future, it clearly is a huge challenge that will probably take eons to take shape, due to ever-increasing patterns of migration within the country. Community sanitation has forever been neglected as an area of focus for policy and innovation, while it continues to be the only real alternative to several people living in urban slums in India. Because of this, it needs single-minded focus both from policymakers as well as stakeholders in the sector to ensure that there can be sustainable and well-designed solutions.

Project Sammaan should surely make an impact on thousands of lives in Bhubaneswar and Cuttack. But I also hope that, through this “experiment”, we will be able to create a model for replicable innovation that can be adapted to various contexts and can bring better sanitation to the lives of slum-dwellers elsewhere as well.