|Community Approach to Integrated Basic Services Promoting Health and Livelihood for the Urban Poor - UNCHS Pilot Project: Lucknow, Rajkot, Visakhapatnam (Government of India - HABITAT, 1999, 90 p.)|
Urban areas in most developing countries are the engines of economic development. Cities are characterised by a wide range of economic activities and socio-economic groups. In developing country cities, informal settlements and peri-urban areas are usually the areas of greatest need. There is no formal definition but it is widely accepted that they include "settlements that are marginal to the physical and regulatory boundaries of the formal city". Among the defining characteristics of peri-urban settlements are: uncertain or illegal land tenure; minimal or no infrastructure; low-income, high-density settlements; and lack of recognition by formal governments.
Most informal and peri-urban settlements remain unserviced by piped water. Where piped supply is available, particularly for settlements along main roads, only about a third of the population may be connected. In many Indian cities, while all high-income residents are served by piped water, only 20 to 30 per cent of houses in low-income areas are connected. The rest, living far from the network, depend either on water vendors or standpipes. In such situations, women, who carry the primary responsibility of carrying water, spend a large part of their productive time for this purpose. The quality of vended water is often poor and contaminated while the standpipe supply may be erratic and limited. Both have serious health implications for the residents of peri-urban and informal settlements.
Sanitation coverage in informal settlements, slums and peri-urban areas is even poorer than water supply coverage. In most cities in some Indian cities, only about 10 per cent of the slum residents have access to sanitation compared to 85 per cent in the formal city. A significant percentage of this population, defecate in vacant plots, abandoned buildings, storm water drains, canals, and gullies, which end up in lakes, streams and rivers causing severe health and environmental problems. Inadequate sanitation in these densely populated areas is turning many surface water bodies into open sewers, and also polluting groundwater resources. Recent statistics show that even the modest improvements in urban sanitation coverage achieved during the International Decade for Water supply and Sanitation are being lost to rapidly growing population.
Informal settlements and peri-urban areas are worst affected by the lack of solid waste collection and disposal services. The haphazard growth of peri-urban and slum settlements and a total disregard to basic siting norms allow little access to solid waste removal services in these densely populated areas, resulting in indiscriminate dumping of wastes in roads and pavements, unsanitary pits, and open drains. This not only affects the living environment but poses a great risk of water pollution.
Poor storm water drainage and severe flooding of low-lying areas during rainstorms is another endemic problem in many low-income peri-urban settlements. The rapid increase in the spread of urban vector-borne diseases like filariasis is closely associated with inadequate drainage. The indiscriminate dumping of solid wastes within peri-urban and other informal settlements further compounds the drainage problem.
Both peri-urban and slum settlements require sustained investment in infrastructure to overcome the effects of prolonged neglect. However, factors such as the lack of legal tenure, technical difficulties in service provision, the limited ability of the population to pay for their services, and the poor financial and administrative capacity of local authorities, all combine to maintain the status quo. Investments usually come in a trickle and in a haphazard manner which fail to improve the quality of life of the people or to arrest the threat to human health and the pollution of water resources.
The level of environmental risk that citizens are exposed to is directly related to their income. High and middle income areas occupy the least polluted areas of the city and residents usually have the jobs with the lowest levels of environmental risk. The low-income households generally live in the most polluted areas, work in the most dangerous jobs and live in the most dangerous sites, frequently at risk from flooding and landslides, or areas contaminated with wastes. The children are particularly at risk from polluted water and resulting sickness which call for the increased attention of parents, particularly mothers, further impair the productivity of women.
Another factor that contributes to health and pollution risks in peri-urban areas is the growing industrial activities which thrive both in the formal and informal sectors in peri-urban areas. Recent studies carried out by UNCHS (Habitat) highlight the health and environmental risks posed by cottage industries functioning in the immediate living environment of peri-urban residents. The wastes and effluents from these industries are often discharged directly into open drains causing serious pollution of water bodies (particularly from heavy metals), and potential risks to human. Very few studies have been carried out to assess the environmental and health risks posed by these industries. Nevertheless, these effects are reflected in the health statistics such as higher infant mortalities and diseases related to lack of infrastructure and overcrowding.
Despite all the overcrowding, infrastructure deficiencies and related health and environmental risks, the economic importance of slum settlements and peri-urban areas is rapidly increasing all over the developing world. Cities today generate, on average, more than one half of the national wealth. Not only do cities rely on the "cheap labour" available in informal settlements and peri-urban areas for their own economic activities, but a significant proportion of this economic development takes place in low income and peri-urban areas as well. Such activities range from the rapidly growing informal sector - small family enterprises operating from their homes or makeshift facilities - to small-scale enterprises, often clustered around industrial estates, frequently serving the formal industries. Thus the informal industries not only cater for domestic markets, but often make a significant contribution to the export economy. All these economic activities compete with the formal sector for the limited peri-urban water resources.
Yet another economic activity which is gaining increasing importance in peri-urban areas is urban agriculture, which provides an ideal opportunity of combining water resources and vacant or derelict land in the peri-urban areas for food production for both domestic consumption and for sale to the urban centres. Urban agriculture thus contributes to the informal economy by providing an additional source of income for peri-urban settlers. In addition, this activity provides employment and enhances the environment through improved air, water and soil quality. The organic fraction of urban waste can be used to produce compost which renders land of marginal quality suitable for agriculture. Many cities have already realised this potential, but with better water management, there is considerable scope for the more wide-spread use of urban agriculture.
There is every indication that peri-urban areas are discrete economic entities with the ability to pay for improvements of their infrastructure. Policy-makers, planners, city managers and peri-urban communities must therefore work together to ensure that at least a part of the income generated by populations in peri-urban areas are ploughed back for improving the infrastructure and the sustainable development of these areas.
The varied infrastructure problems in slum settlements and peri-urban areas which include lack of water, inadequate sanitation, poor solid waste removal, inadequate surface water drainage and industrial wastes emanating from informal sector operations, call for a co-ordinated approach to avoid duplication of effort and to maximise the utilisation of human and other resources.
Communities in many developing countries have demonstrated that, given the necessary support they can contribute significantly to the management of their infrastructure at the local level through community - based management. Good examples are: water kiosks, serviced toilets, primary collection of solid wastes, recycling and reuse of domestic wastes, waste derived composts and urban agriculture. Such activities not only reduce the burden of service provision for local authorities but also help to keep the neighbourhood clean, reduce water and air pollution and conserve valuable natural resources through waste recovery and provide significant opportunities for additional employment and income generation.
There is clearly a benefit to be gained from the partnership approach by both the national and local governments, who are hopelessly constrained by financial and human resources problems, and by women and men in these peri-urban and informal settlements who are keen to improve their living environment and generate some income.
The Current Project
It was with this background that the Government of India and the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat) entered into a partnership to alleviate poverty and develop community capacity through "informal solutions within formal boundaries". This collaboration has resulted in an 18-month project entitled, "Community Approach to Integrated Basic Services: Promoting Health and Livelihood for the Urban Poor". The project which commenced on March 24, 1998 is expected to be completed by the end of December 1999. The project involves a financial commitment of US $ 1,90,000 from UNCHS and US $ 50,000 from the Government of India.
The main aim of the project is to improve physical conditions in identified slum and peri-urban areas, build capacity within slum communities, peri-urban residents and devise local community structures through which the low income community could work towards their own betterment. This was to be achieved through convergence of existing programmes/schemes targeting the urban poor.
The objective of promoting sustainable human settlements development in an urbanising world is a central concern of the Habitat Agenda. This project is expected to contribute to improving the health and livelihood of urban populations living in poverty through sustainable, community-based approaches to environmental management at the local level. The project will, specifically, focus on:
1. Enhancing environmental and health awareness at local level, thus promoting health-oriented and environmentally sound development of infrastructure and basic services, particularly in peri-urban, low-income settlements;
2. Building capacity at local level for effective community participation in the planning, provision and management of environmental infrastructure and services;
3. Promoting an integrated approach to the delivery and management of basic environmental infrastructure services, through broad-based partnerships among local governments, other service providers, private sector and community groups (particularly women groups);
4. Strengthening environmental and livelihood linkages at the local level for sustainable local environment initiatives.
Selection of Cities
Three medium-sized cities namely, Lucknow (Uttar Pradesh), Rajkot (Gujarat) and Visakhapatnam (Andhra Pradesh) were identified representing Northern, Western and Southern parts of India respectively. These cities provide a socio-cultural and institutional divergence, and a testing environment for a large number of best practices originating from within as well as from outside India.
Institutional Arrangements: Project Co-ordination
Since the project was to deal with the issues relating to the urban poor, the Urban Poverty Alleviation Division of the Ministry of Urban Development was given the prime responsibility in project implementation. To ensure participation of all interested stakeholders, the following three levels of teams were formulated:
1. National Project Advisory Committee: The committee oversees the overall implementation of the project and is chaired by the Secretary, Ministry of Urban Development.
2. National Support Team: The Joint Secretary, Ministry of Urban Development was the National Project Co-ordinator to oversee different city projects and take stock of the progress made from time to time. He is assisted by a team of officers who work as Nodal Officers for three different cities.
3. City Level Project Co-ordination: The Municipal Commissioners of Rajkot and Visakhapatnam and the Director of State Urban Development Authority, Lucknow were the City Project Coordinators. The co-ordinators supervise and ensure the convergence of all the related programmes within the given project parameters.
The project is directed towards the urban poor and the people living in low-income settlements in the three pilot cities of Lucknow, Rajkot and Visakhapatnam. The project beneficiaries included the following groups:
· Households living in low-income settlements and in peri-urban areas.
· Community Groups and NGOs involved in the process of provision of services.
· Local Authorities and officials working to improve the health and environment at local level.
· Policy makers at local, state and national levels.
Women and children have been targeted as the main beneficiaries and their participation in the programme is structured for the sustainability of the project.
Project Strategy and Implementation Highlights
The present co-operation is providing assistance to develop an integrated, participatory and gender-sensitive approach to the provision and management of basic services with a view to improve the local environment, community health and increased income-earning opportunities for urban populations living in poverty.
In developing the strategy for improving basic services, special effort has been made to build capacity at the local level in three cities. A series of training and capacity building activities directed at NGOs and local-level officials have been carried out for this purpose, in areas such as participatory techniques, community participation, monitoring and assessment, gender issues, small business development etc.
The project has also helped to promote greater investment in basic infrastructure services by both public and private sectors and by external agencies in the three cities and the strategy developed by this co-operation will be applied, in the next phase, through demonstrations, in the three cities. The implementation experience of demonstrations will also be used to produce training materials for wider application of the strategy in other cities in India and also in other countries in the region.
A national level start-up workshop was organized on 25 March, 1998 at New Delhi to mark the beginning of the project. This workshop was presided over by the then Urban Development Minister, Mr. Ram Jethmalani and Dr. Darshan Johal, Executive Director and Assistant Secretary General, UNCHS. This workshop apprised the participants of the project and its objectives and led to the evolution of the project implementation strategy at national, state and city levels. It focussed on the concept of convergence of all existing initiatives into an integrated approach to develop communities and improve conditions in slums in the three selected pilot cities.
This workshop was followed by the three city level workshops in each city before the implementation of the actual programme. The objective of these workshops was to provide guidance to the representatives of neighbourhood committees, non-governmental organisations, elected representatives of the urban local bodies and officials engaged in providing basic services concerning health and livelihood of the urban poor.
The project mainly dealt with the institutionalising of the communities for better interface with the local level implementation agencies. This was done through the formation of neighbourhood groups and community development societies in all three cities. These groups met regularly to identify potentialities within themselves and create awareness. Communities were facilitated to identify problem areas using social mapping and matrix ranking methods and to prioritise their needs.
In Lucknow, 10 out of a total of 86 slums were taken up under the UNCHS Project. As a result of various initiatives under the UNCHS project as many as 100 Neighbourhood Groups, 2 Thrift and Credit Societies and 2 DWCUA groups have been set up. These groups surveyed their needs and prioritised them. In response, District Urban Development Authority helped in setting up 3 Pre-School Education and 2 Non-Formal Education Centres. In addition, support was provided out of various other poverty alleviation schemes for making provision of piped water supply, drainage, BOE pavement and garbage bin facility to these 10 selected Slums.
The City of Rajkot carried out the work in 25 slums of the total of 74. Among the first steps taken were the formation of Neighbourhood Groups. Once these were in place in these identified Slums, they played an important role in identifying the infrastructure gaps. These community groups also have taken steps for providing vocational training for income generating activities. The Municipal Corporation, Rajkot made provision for piped water supply, construction of roads and drainage in the neighbourhood not having access to these facilities.
In Visakhapatnam, where 11 Slums have been identified under this Project, 98 Thrift and Credit Societies have been formed. As many as 5 DWCUA Groups are now operational. During the last 18 months, 10 sewing centres and 18 Balwadis and Anganwadis have been established in these 11 Slums. In addition, the Municipal Corporation, Visakhapatnam has made several interventions for constructing concrete pavements, drains and piped water connections, so that integrated development of these slums should become possible.
The main gains of the project could be summarized as successful convergence of slum-related schemes in the project cities and resource mobilisation from both internal and external sources. Community resources as well as resources from other programmes and projects were dovetailed to fill in the missing gaps in basic services. The end result was a significant change in the living environment as well as the socio-economic status of the communities addressed. However, the basic thrust still remains on convergence and institutionalisation of support to and involvement of communities. The details of assets created in the process are detailed in different sections of the report.
Monitoring and Evaluation
The National Project Advisory Committee and the National Support Team, based in the Ministry of Urban Development gave the directions and reviewed the progress made in the three cities from time to time. The Nodal Officers of each city were in close interaction with the respective city level project committees. This required several visits by the nodal officers to the respective cities and also their participation in the city seminars and the activities thereafter. The National Co-ordinators therefore played the important role of catalysts and facilitators in implementing the project and converging various programmes in the identified cities.
The Nodal Officers also helped in identifying and developing the community structures and preparing a need based action plan for each of the selected cities. Their close interaction helped in cross-fertilisation of the approaches followed in other areas to devise appropriate interventions in the pilot cities.
Outputs and Activities
Each city carried out a survey of the selected slums and was able to identify the infrastructure gaps as well as prioritise them with community participation. This was then linked with the resources available in existing projects and programmes as well as local beneficiary contributions.
Community Development Societies and Neighbourhood Groups were also formed in all the slum areas. Some of these Societies were registered and introduced to the commercial banks for obtaining small credit. Programmes related to skill development and economic upliftment were channelised through these societies. In Visakhapatnam and Rajkot these societies also mobilised their own resources to work as Thrift and Credit Societies for lending money to their members for operating income-generating activities. The three concerned State Governments also contributed small seed capital amounts to these societies.
The sections pertaining to three different cities in this publication illustrate in detail the approaches followed in the three cities to achieve the same common goal, which is improving the living condition of the urban poor. There is a greater recognition now that the community itself is a big asset to any programme and the concept of an integrated approach adds to synergy and develops momentum. This has been the single largest contribution of the UNCHS project in the three selected cities.
On the basis of the success of the Pilot Project it will now be possible to extend the original programme concept to a larger group of cities. The smooth co-ordination achieved between the various ongoing schemes indicates that the key aspect of convergence can be continued in future. Additional parameters could also be included to ensure that the physical and social improvement of slums and other low-income areas in Indian cities is accomplished in a holistic manner on a sustainable basis.
At the end of this co-operation initiative in December 1999, environmental and health awareness at local level is expected to improve in the areas which are promoting targeted investments in basic infrastructure services in selected peri-urban and low income settlements. Capacity is also being built at the local level in pilot project cities for effective community participation in the provision and management of basic services. Based on these experiences, the Ministry of Urban Development is developing a strategy for a community-based integrated intervention for the provision and management of basic services which would promote health and livelihood opportunities for the urban poor.
A proposal for capital investment for improvement in basic services in the three cities is being finalized, using a community based, integrated approach as indicated above. Sources for capital investment, both external and internal, are also being identified.