Pre-Construction Activities

There are a series of interrelated activities that must occur prior to the commencement of construction on the Sammaan facilities in order to ensure the project is as effective as possible. The challenge is that these activities cannot begin until after the contractors have been selected and a clearly defined construction timeline created as they need to be completed as close to the commencement of building the facilities as can be afforded.

Naturally, the extensive delays in the tendering process and, ultimately, in finding suitable contractors for facility construction has put the timelines for the pre-construction activities in a (more…)

Revisiting Bhubaneswar’s Sites

The drastically reduced budget for the Community Toilets in Bhubaneswar will only allow us to build only 26 of the originally planned 60 facilities. This meant that the team had to decide which communities would receive a facility and which would be forced to keep their fingers-crossed in hopes that sometime in the future their needs will be met. Doing so was no small task, and one that required the participation of virtually all those working on the initiative. Further complicating matters was the two-week deadline mandated by the government to complete the work.

The first step in this process was visiting all proposed sites to identify any encroachment issues. As the land was identified and allocated to the project nearly 2 years ago, there was serious concern that many of the sites would no longer be open and available for construction. In fact, (more…)

Vox Populi Video

In the spring of 2013, members of the Project Sammaan team from CFAR and Quicksand spent the day visiting one of the bastis (i.e., slums) in Bhubaneswar. The purpose of this visit, as I wrote about in a previous post, was to provide a platform for community members to discuss any aspects of their lives that they wished to, irrespective of its relevance to Sammaan.

We intentionally kept the questions vague and open-ended to encourage interviewees to share as much as possible. Queries such as, “What is it like living here?” and “What do you like and dislike about your community?” led to some great insights.


Census Completion!

The main field milestone in August has been the completion of the census data collection. As I write this update, the team is gearing up for what will be their last census field session. We follow a rule of a site-wide first-pass followed by two revisits for each unfinished household. Today the field team is preparing for a second revisit at the last remaining site.

With the completion of this last batch of 10 sites in Bhubaneswar, what has been nearly a 11-month long exercise draws to a close. In this time, we have, in total, surveyed 32 sites in Cuttack, and about a 100 sites in Bhubaneswar, covering over 20,000 households in Bhubaneswar and 7,000 households in Cuttack. The overall completion rates in Bhubaneswar and Cuttack stand at around 87% and 90%, respectively.


Documenting Sammaan

Communications efforts are a key part of Project Sammaan. In fact, the grant proposal itself identifies the creation of a dissemination toolkit as second only to reducing instances of open-defecation and improving health amongst India’s urban poor.

By extension, documenting the project’s activities is a vital exercise to ensure that as much detail as possible is captured as it unfolds. The value obviously being that information is captured as it happens, making the insights far richer and impactful than if they were revisited later on in the project.


Notes from the Field

Field activities in the month of July were focused towards completing the census data collection in the remaining 10 community toilet locations in Bhubaneswar. J-PAL has finished first round of data collection is 5 sites with a completion rate of more than 80%, and will revisit these sites to improve the completion rate and start data collection in the remaining sites.

The Principal Investigator on the Urban Sanitation Project, Prof. Mushfiq Mobarak, Associate Professor at the Yale School of Management, visited the project in July. He presented the Software and Research aspects of the Urban Sanitation project to the Additional Chief Secretary, Mr Srinivas. The presentation led to a constructive dialogue on the practical challenges to keep in mind while implementing the research methodology.


Vox Populi

On a recent trip to Bhubaneswar and Cuttack, members of the Project Sammaan team from Quicksand and CFAR visited slums with the intention of recording a series of interviews with community members. These conversations are part of an initiative to build off of the user-experience theme that governed Potty Project in the past and guides Project Sammaan both today and going forward.

Whereas previous visits to these communities and interactions with those living within them were focused around gaining insights that will help drive specific aspects of Project Sammaan, these visits were intentionally devoid of such parameters. These conversations were intended to afford people a platform in which they could share thoughts and opinions on their daily lives, their communities, and their aspirations for the future.


CFAR’s Role in Project Sammaan

CFAR’s role in Project Sammaan is to actively engage in facilitating community interactions in the field for: social mapping of each slum, community engagement and dialogue during design and construction phases, and facility management training for community members to help ensure the endeavour’s sustainability.

Presently, we are working on developing a strategy and implementation action plan for community intervention. A communication framework was developed that identified the specific issues that might affect Project Sammaan at the community level, which included strengthening the capacity of staff on specific inputs needed for individual slums, and developing activity checklists for specific project deliverables. Apart from this, CFAR is supporting Quicksand and J-PAL when required at the community level for the project.


Site & Land Approvals

Project Sammaan’s initial pilot phase in Bhubaneswar and Cuttack involves the construction of 100+ separate community and public sanitation facilities. Some of these facilities will replace existing, non-functional toilet blocks on the land these failed facilities currently occupy, whereas others will be built on new land allocated by the municipal corporations for use in the project.

Irrespective of this, every site requires vetting to ensure it complies not only with building codes but also within parameters set by the project itself. In order to arrive at the final list of sites, nearly twice as many proposed areas as will be built on needed to be documented and evaluated.


Anecdote from the Field

We met a gentleman during a visit to Baibaba Basti in Bhubaneswar who was one of the slum’s original residents. He’s lived there for over 25 years and has been progressive in trying to get amenities and facilities for the community as a whole. One of his major successes was getting the government to sanction 3 toilet booths for the community.

A few months after these toilet booths were built, the community realized that they needed to build at least 3 more, and proceeded to build them while extending the septic tank and creating runoffs.