Put the Poo in the New Loos

Project Samman, over the past 3 years, has been putting in immeasurable effort towards a single, immense goal: building great new community toilets. At some point in the not-too-distant future, 57 brand new, gleaming toilet blocks will come into existence, and it will be a major accomplishment for the project.

But then what?

What happens next? Just because the new toilets exist, will people use them?

This is not as easy of a question to consider as it might seem at first glance. We might think, “Why (more…)

A Need for Clarity & Access

The possibility of a Public Sector Unit (PSU) being awarded the contracts for constructing the Sammaan facilities on a nomination basis was greeted with great excitement, support, and an overwhelming sense of relief; after a year-and-a-half of false starts and setbacks, it was beginning to look like the tendering process was finally over. That positive outlook has been tempered quite a bit over the past two months as the decision on a PSU’s nomination remains pending, leaving the team in an extended state of limbo and uncertain as to what steps can be taken to expedite the review.

Much of this uncertainty lies in the lack of clarity regarding what is entailed in the review process currently under way with various representatives at the H&UD, Finance, and Public Health Departments. We simply don’t know what the protocols are, who is responsible for each step, and what the timelines associated with each are. Ultimately, the team finds itself in a position of having to be reactive, to wait for requests from the various (more…)

The Gradual Manifestation of a Distant Vision

My colleague Kevin has posted recent updates on the current status of nominating a construction agency for building the toilet facilities in Bhubaneswar and Cuttack. As mentioned, we are waiting on final approvals from the government and are hopeful that we will soon have a contractor confirmed, following which we can start pre-construction activities at the sites. As such, we are hopeful that we will soon break ground and see the beginning of construction.

This has come after several months of tendering activity. The design team that has worked on the various sorts of toilet facilities, have long completed all the requisite work to begin construction. (more…)

The Waiting Game

Project Sammaan is currently in a state of limbo with decisions still pending on nominating a contractor to construct the facilities in both Bhubaneswar and Cuttack. After several failed attempts at publicly tendering the facility construction, reports were issued by both the BMC and CMC to senior officials at the Housing & Urban Development Department supporting the nomination of a Public Sector Unit (PSU) as contractor.

The decision to nominate a PSU received the full support of the project team and, since late July, the reports have been subject to review by various members of the H&UD, Public Health, and (more…)

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…)

Light at the End of the Tunnel?

As any regular reader of this blog will attest, tendering for construction of the Sammaan facilities has been a singular focal point of, and considerable challenge for, Project Sammaan for nearly a year-and-a-half. The hurdles have been well documented, as have the associated peaks and valleys of emotions with each perceived success and setback. It is with this history in mind that we share, with caution, potentially great news that could finally lead to ground-breaking on the first Sammaan facilities.

To provide some background first, the third reissue of the tender (this time split into four individual packages) in Cuttack once again did not yield any interested bidders, let alone qualified ones. In Bhubaneswar, based on the decision to reduce the number of sites for the initial phase of tendering (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…)

Changes in Bhubaneswar

The project team received some very disheartening news in a recent meeting with senior government officials: funding for the Community Toilets in Bhubaneswar has been drastically reduced. This budget cut translates to the construction for 34 of the 60 planned facilities being delayed indefinitely.

The timing of this news was especially difficult for the team as the tender documents for the 60 planned facilities had just been finalized and the release of the notice inviting bids from interested contractors thought to be imminent. Given the 15 months of effort that involved the (more…)

Project Sammaan Website Improvements

The Project Sammaan communications team has spent the past several weeks making improvements to this website in the interest of increasing the amount of project-related information we’re sharing.

Above and beyond minor aesthetic tweaks such as updating the images used and adding social network connections for the blog’s authors, there are three significant improvements that we felt compelled to call out: a repository of resources and project documents that visitors can download, a map that identifies the locations of every individual facility we intend on building in both Bhubaneswar and Cuttack, and a ‘search’ feature that allows visitors to navigate the site’s content much easier.

(more…)

Progress Report & Looking Ahead

Over the course of the past several weeks, the project management team has launched a bit of a letter-writing campaign to our partners at the municipal corporations, as well as various other senior members of the Odisha state government. The purpose of these formal correspondences is to ensure that the challenges and opinions of the non-government partners working on Project Sammaan are taken into consideration and, more importantly, become part of the permanent record for the initiative.

It can be extremely challenging navigating the bureaucracy of the municipal corporations especially when seeking to ensure that all pertinent information is communicated to all necessary parties in a timely and efficient manner. Emails are ineffective as some of the government partners lack regular access to computers and, further to that point, few have personal email addresses, making it difficult to know if messages sent to generic, catch-all (more…)