Forum 2016 - Infrastructure Space - Detroit (Ruby Press)
75 74 Urban development can be characterized by an incrementalism and spontaneity that does not always match the grid laid out by city planners. What does that mean for infrastructure? Taking the case of a sanitation project in Savda Ghevra, New Delhi, Julia King considers how incrementalism can drive not just the development of missing infrastructure but also participation and engagement. In 2003, New Delhi, the capital of India, won the bid to host the 2010 Commonwealth Games, triggering the largest slum 1 clearance scheme the city had seen for decades. Al- though the figure is much debated, it is estimated that one million people were displaced from inner-city slum settlements. 2 Many of these ended up in resettlement colonies like Savda Ghevra. Savda Ghevra provides what can be best described as a marginal civic experience. Water arrives by tanker, which means that residents, mostly women, have to wait to collect it and then carry it to their homes. The resettlement of Savda Ghevra did not involve the construction of new housing; instead, residents were simply relocated to partially serviced blocks of plots. Under this scheme, each family develops their plot based on the means and resources available to them, resulting in an urban formati- on that is the accumulation of multiple individual decisions. The plots (18 or 12.5 square me- ters) are too small to be developed in any meaningful or extensive manner. Added to this is the fact that general health is compromised by the lack of sanitation and the site is so far from the city center that getting to and from places of employment is difficult and costly. The plots are arranged in a linear fashion and have neighboring properties on three sides. The result is an urbanity underpinned by a plan of regularity, in contrast to the spon- taneous development traditionally associated with illegal slums. Despite this formal planning, the site has not developed in a consistent manner—in Incremental Infrastructure: Politics, Legality, Development, and Engagement in Delhi Julia King Fig. 1: Women collecting water from a DJB tanker Piped water networks have not been planned for or built in the area which is predominantly reliant on water tankers. part because the infrastructure sup- plied by the government remains un- built or incomplete, but largely becau- se the relocated families have mainly built their homes incrementally and on their own. The sanitation project in Savda Ghevra presents a case study of infrastructure as politics, de fac- to legality, driving development, and finally a process of engagement and participation. The planning of Savda Ghevra by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) included only nine community toilet complexes, a sum that is insuffi- cient to meet the needs of a growing population. Assuming that all the exis- ting latrine seats in the complexes are usable, the ratio of seats to female inhabitants is 1:250—well under any recommended level. During inter- views, many residents complained of the prohibitive costs of the few functi- oning complexes; the result is that 88 percent of the population defecate in the open. 3 Women particularly suffer from having no accessible safe toilet. To protect their modesty, they often wait until nightfall to defecate in the open—but waiting is also the cause of widespread gastric disorders. What emerged in response to these condi- tions was a sanitation project born of a coalition of active community mem- bers, a local nongovernmental organi- zation known as the Centre for Urban and Regional Excellence (CURE), and the author acting as architectural designer. The project explores the possibility of developing infrastruc- ture—in this case, sanitation—and asking: Would it be possible to use incrementalism to develop a collecti- vely shared commitment to a common problem, beyond the level of the indi- vidual house? The proposed interven- tion was a community-based sani- tation system connecting individual (household) toilets to a shared septic tank and up-flow filter that forms a Decentralized Wastewater Treatment System (DEWAT), which treats mostly black water but can handle gray water as well. The technology of DEWAT can be feasibly built, managed, and maintained by the community, and is capable of adapting to the rapid, haphazard changes that happen on the urban fringe as a consequence of a lack of planning and infrastructure. The project posed a key question: Would the outcome establish a princi- ple that a collective commitment and incremental techniques could “build” a town? Instead of demanding—and Fig. 2: Variation of houses found in Savda Ghevra The assortment of house types represents the variegated architectural aspirations and ability of the residents. In the absence of infrastructure provision by the state, marginal communities ar forced to find alternate solu ions for basic ne ds, either as individuals or together. Taking the case of a sanitation project in Savda Ghevra, New Delhi, Julia King considers the relationship between collective incremental development and civic life.