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 state of stasis; we know what needs to be done and how much time is required to accomplish them, but the ‘x’ factor in the equation is the start date for construction, and that is regrettably out of our control. It’s the old cliche of “the calm before the storm”. All we can do is wait for it to begin, but the waiting has been frustrating and brought with it internal tensions that, while understandable, are ultimately unaddressable.
The pre-construction activities can broadly be segmented into three progressive categories: baseline research, community engagement, and site preparation.
- Research kicks off all efforts and involves conducting surveys within the communities to establish a baseline for comparing and quantifying the impact the Sammaan facilities have over a host of data points. These surveys are expected to take upwards of two months to complete, which in and of itself speaks to the extensive footprint of Project Sammaan.
- As each community survey is completed, a team headed up by partner organization CFAR will engage with the community members to help prepare them for what’s to come, both the immediate construction activities and the resultant sanitation facilities. This will be the first time community members are informed of the facilities, so this activity is paramount. Ensuring buy-in at the community level is critical. This is fairly obvious since without users, what good is a sanitation facility, but it’s important to communicate that Sammaan is more than an infrastructure project. It was conceived as an answer to the issues affecting community sanitation in urban slums in India, and ensuring behavioral change by end-users through imparting an understanding of the value and benefits of the facilities is a key component of that. These engagement activities can commence within two weeks of the baseline research kicking off.
- Only after the baseline research and community engagements are completed can the site preparations begin, and even these have a certain order to them. First and foremost, temporary toilet facilities need to be provided by the municipal corporations for instances in which an existing toilet structure is being replaced by a Sammaan facility. Clearly we do not want to create a situation in which we’re leaving community members without any facilities and ensured through the MoUs with both the BMC and CMC that provisions would be made in these cases. This is especially important in Cuttack where we will effectively be reinventing the existing community sanitation ecosystem with 29 of the 32 Sammaan facilities replacing existing, dysfunctional toilets. Once these temporary facilities are in place, demolition and other site clearance activities can begin.
The current plan is to have the contractor(s) follow the municipal corporation demolition teams so that construction begins as soon as any required demolition is complete. This way the inconvenience to the communities is minimized to the greatest extent possible. It’s quite a remarkable logistical challenge: there are 85 job sites spread across two cities and many of them in extremely confined spaces, and construction on all of them needs to occur simultaneously, or at least as close to it as possible.
The timeline we have worked out at this point is around 3 months for pre-construction activities, and 9-12 months for construction to be complete on all facilities. Our best estimates have the facilities open and operational in a year’s time. That’s all well and good, but until the government approves a contractor (or contractors) for Project Sammaan, we won’t know when that year’s worth of work can even begin.