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FILM | Return of the Drain Gang - Pakistan


The Orangi Pilot Project or OPP is one of the world's best-known non-government projects in the large-scale provision of sanitation for the urban poor. The project began in 1980 in the depressed and overcrowded Orangi settlement, one of Karachi's most blighted districts and its largest katchi abadi or squatter settlement. This remarkable initiative has remained self-sufficient for over two decades. It is still a self-funded and self-managed grassroots movement that relies purely on the skills and resources of the urban poor. Using local materials and labour to build hundreds of kilometres of low-cost underground sewers, OPP has significantly improved living conditions for millions of people.

By 2001 the Orangi project had benefited more than 60,000 families, and inspired thousands of others to work independently. Over 400 collector sewers have been built, and collectively the community has invested some 82 million Rupees (around US$1.4 million) in their sewage system. Community goods and traffic can now move more freely, supporting home-based enterprises and trading; infant deaths have fallen dramatically and health of the general population has greatly improved.

The provision of community sanitation services has been at the heart of the project, but the unique way in which this was achieved is just as important. The inspiring demonstration of poor urban communities' ability to mobilise resources has been a crucial factor. The OPP's philosophy of community responsibility for services through indigenous and self-motivated initiatives has empowered the community to the point of requiring little or no 'outside' help.

Community-driven Management
Recognition that communities need to be fully prepared in order to construct and manage their own infrastructure services is vital. Preparatory activities include basic education, training for local leaders, community discussion and the establishing of and support for local community groups. Through the provision of guidance that encourages local management and financial resources to come together, community-driven self-management is greatly strengthened.

Two key stages can be identified as essential to project success:

Stage 1: Preparation
• Identifying community needs and priorities without being influenced by NGOs or local government
• Identifying the resources that are available locally and how they might be used
• Nominating leaders who are accountable to residents and represent the needs of the community
• Training project employees from the community to provide technical advice and to motivate residents
• Training communities to develop skills, particularly those individuals with existing 'traditional knowledge'.

Stage 2: Community Mobilisation
• Approaching influential community members with good reputations, to contact residents about the project
• Devising appropriate methods for explaining important features to residents, such as a slide show
• Seeking the support of local organisations with technical knowledge, for example to provide surveys and cost estimates
• Organising collection of money from each individual or household and ensuring accounts are kept
• Purchasing local materials and hiring labour so that work can begin.
These steps formed the backbone of the Orangi project and ensured full community involvement from the beginning. The technical support provided by the project helped to strengthen trust between the OPP and the residents or Orangi, based on the responsibilities and expectations of each.

The Secret of Success
The level of involvement of lane managers, lane residents and local contractors is a critical factor in the success of the Orangi project. Local people have control over their own service provision and learn by doing most of the work.

Taking responsibility
Residents are responsible for managing finances and constructing lane sanitation. All decisions and responsibilities on household sewers rest with households so that accountability is given to appropriate people, creating ownership.

Community organisation
Small social organisations are encouraged to form, with around 20 to 40 households acting as a practical unit. Formal organisations based on neighbourhood or area committees are often too large and cumbersome to respond quickly to local needs.

Communities are responsible for paying for sewer lines at the lane level. Self-financing improves the level of co-operation and motivation between residents.

Lower costs
The average cost per household is around 1000 Rupees (US$40) in total. This is between one quarter and one sixth of the cost to the government of similar sewers. A simplified design, accepted by the Local Authority, has helped to cut costs, and construction is cheaper, partly because the residents build and supervise the work themselves. This eliminates the cost of corrupt practices and professional fees for contractors, and the quality of the work tends to be better than that of government contractors. Paying only the cost of labour and materials makes it affordable and much easier to persuade poor families to take on the responsibility for self-financing.
The problem of loan recovery is avoided when people organise themselves and collect money first.

Lessons Learned
The OPP shows how communities can provide their own infrastructure where service provision is missing. Community mobilisation and organisation, in devoting money, time and hard work, has improved the lives of the residents of Orangi. The recommended use of low-cost affordable technologies, although below national standards, is now accepted by the Sindh Katchi Abadi Authority. Through learning, adjusting and adopting OPP principles, many settlements in the region are benefiting as a result. The success of OPP has proved that the concept of development through community participation is the only viable option for low-income communities.

For further information, please contact:

Perween Rahman
Orangi Pilot Project Research and Training Institute (OPP RTI),
Plot No ST 4 Sector 5A,
Qasba Colony,
Manghopir Road,
Karachi 75800,
Tel: +92 21 6658628/6652297

Prince Consort House
27-29 Albert Embankment
London SE1 7UB
Tel: +44 207 793 4500
Fax: +44 207 793 4545

Alternative Finance
The Alternative Finance website has a comprehensive list of organisations focusing on micro-credit and micro-enterprise around the world.

Eldis Microfinance Gateway
The Eldis Microfinance Gateway lists many organisations involved with micro-credit. It also has many country profiles, where papers from different countries can be viewed, and organisations working in those countries can be found.

MicroFinance Network
The MicroFinance Network is a global association of leading microfinance practitioners. The members of the MicroFinance Network are committed to improving the lives of low-income people through the provision of credit, savings and other financial services.

The Microfinance Gateway
The Microfinance Gateway is a public forum for the microfinance industry at large that offers a wealth of tailored services for microfinance professionals, including resource centres on specific topics in microfinance, a searchable library of electronic documents, a consultant database, a jobs listing service, and specialised discussion groups.

Further Reading
From the Lane to the City: The impact of the Orangi Pilot Project's Low Cost Sanitation Model
Akbar Zaidi, WaterAid (included on the present site!)

The following books are available to buy from Earthprint or you can download them as pdf files from IIED's website.

Community-driven Water and Sanitation: The Work of the Anjuman Samaji Behbood and the Larger Faisalabad Context
Salim Alimuddin, Arif Hasan and Asiya Sadiq
US$ 9.00, IIED, 2000, ISBN: 1843690195
P.O. Box 119
Tel: +44 1438 748 111
Fax: +44 1438 748 844

The Water, Engineering and Development Centre (WEDC) at the University of Loughborough has many publications on sanitation and urban services. Some of the publications below can be downloaded for free in full in pdf format from the WEDC website. Others are only partially available, but all can be bought by contacting them and some are reproduced on the present site.

Low-cost Sanitation: A survey of practical experience
John Pickford
This practical manual describes and compares a range of low-cost systems - what they are, where they are appropriate, and how they can be planned, built, operated and maintained.
£9.95, 1995, ISBN: 1 85339 233 2

Sustainable Sewerage: Guidelines for community schemes
This handbook describes these schemes and suggests objective methods of prioritising communities needs for sewerage. It surveys the planning, selection, design, management and maintenance of community schemes, and provides technical and financial suggestions on cost-effective practice and procedures.
£6.95, 1995, ISBN: 1 85339 305 3

On-plot Sanitation for Low-income Urban Communities: Guidelines for selection
Andrew Cotton and Darren Saywell
This document presents the findings from Phase 2 (August 1994 - March 1997) of a Department for International Development (DFID) project (R4857) covering On-Plot Sanitation in Low Income Urban Communities. The project concerns the performance of on-plot sanitation systems in urban India, Ghana and Mozambique. It aims to investigate how satisfactory on-plot sanitation is in the urban context, and to develop guidance on its use for policy makers and professional staff of urban governments, development agencies and non-government organisations
£9.95, 1998, ISBN: 0 906055 55 5

Community Initiatives in Urban Infrastructure
A.P.Cotton, M.Sohail and W.K. Tayler
This manual investigates the extent and nature of the involvement oflow-income urban communities in the provision of their local infrastructure. It also provides guidance for policy-makers and professional staff of urban government, development agencies, non-government organisations, and small to medium enterprises for promoting increased involvement of communities in the procurement of neighbourhood (tertiary level) infrastructure.
£9.95, 1998, ISBN: 0 906055 56
Loughborough University
LE11 3TU
United Kingdom
Tel: + 44 (0) 1509 222885
Fax: + 44 (0) 1509 211079
This document is an output from a project funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the European Commission (EC) for the benefit of developing countries. The views expressed are not necessarily those of DFID or the EC.


ITDG would like to thank Arif Hasan and Virginia Roaf at WaterAid,
for providing assistance in the making of this document.
TVE/ITDG gratefully acknowledge support for the HANDS ON programmes from the UK's Department for International Development (DFID), the European Commission (EC), the UN Foundation and UNDP/The Equator Initiative in collaboration with the Government of Canada, IDRC, IUCN, BrasilConnects and the Nature Conservancy.


2003 Development Planning Unit | Sikandar Hasan | Anna Soave | Khanh Tran-Thanh || Tina Simon