Quick Facts About Urur/Olcott Kuppam*
Population: 1500+ Residents
Number of Establishments: 300+
Percentage of Available Toilet Facilities: 50%
Method of Sewage Disposal: Primarily discharged onto the sea shore
*Data from household survey conducted in Urur/Olcott Kuppam by Restart[UOK] team last week
Restart [UOK- Urur Olcott Kuppam] is a proposal hinged on improving the quality of life in settlements by focusing on the provision of basic rights such as access to water and sanitation for the inhabitants of Urur/Olcott Kuppam.
Urur/Olcott Kuppam [UOK], a historic centuries-old fishing village [kuppam - term used to refer to coastal villages in ancient tamil literature], is a recognised settlement in Chennai and is quickly growing beyond its infrastructural capacity. Despite being a recognised settlement by the government, the infrastructure in UOK is extremely lacking, leading to very poor standards of living within the community and limited options for improvement. Unable to meet the basic needs of reliable water sources and proper sanitation for the residents of the kuppam, the village panchayat [local government] is looking for new ways to improve the quality of life for its community.
The metropolitan city of Chennai is an agglomeration of villages. The majority of the fishing communities in Chennai live in small villages/low income settlements located along the shoreline. While all other historic villages in the centre have been completely urbanised, the fishing villages along the coast have been compelled into a state of poor infrastructure, sanitation and sewage disposal conditions. Those who make their living as fishermen are required to live in these areas in close proximity to the sea. These fishing communities rely on the cleanliness of the shore to sustain their profession and livelihood.
Fishermen from these villages are considered to be small-scale artisans, consequently only able to earn minimal wages in comparison to larger companies. As these fishermen spend much of their workday on the shores--they clean, mend and store fishing nets there—the inadequate sewage disposal system poses a threat to their health.
In addition to contaminating the groundwater where these communities reside, the sewage seeps onto the shores where children play. In UOK, the vast majority of children are getting sick every other week as a result. Therefore, a system to improve sanitation would have the dual effect of preserving these villagers’ traditional fishing profession while improving their health and making the community more habitable.
Quick Facts about Marine Fishing Villages[MFV]
# of MFV in Tamil Nadu: 573
# of MFV in Chennai: 44
Households/Families Belonging to Traditional Fishermen: 96%
# of Fishermen Households: 192697
Average # of inhabitants per village: 1401
# of Families Living Below Poverty Line: 127245
Access to Electricity/Cell Coverage: 95%/96%
*Source: Marine Fisheries Census 2010, Tamil Nadu
Mapping The Future
The first step forwards towards developing sustainable communities involves collaborating with the villagers to gain an understanding of how they live and use public space in their kuppam. This step is key to sustainable development, as it activates the villagers to preserve their historic and cultural identity while planning for the future. Through this collaboration, we can begin to understand the opportunities and constraints, provide a public infrastructure framework for the commons to thrive and furthermore, develop a working prototype of the system. Once issues have been identified, we will work with local organisations and the community to identify adoptable solutions that fit their unique needs.
After completing a comprehensive report to outline the existing conditions in UOK, the community will work with funds from the government and other sources to identify and implement a proper water + sanitation system. The report will be used to leverage investments and outline a strategic framework for development in UOK. In addition, local residents will be taught a participatory building process of the wasterwater treatment system. The wastewater treatment system will address present issues including sewage accumulation and contaminated groundwater, while the education and participation of the villagers will ensure the system’s longevity and upkeep.
Finally, the residents of UOK will be asked to contribute a sustainable monthly fee to maintain the system.
Water sustains us all, and for the residents of Urur/Olcott Kuppam who rely on the fishing industry, the water is also their livelihood. Together, we propose implementing a participative design process with local communities in an effort to address the large-scale issue of providing water and sanitation for all residents living in fishing villages throughout the state of Tamil Nadu. Our process-driven approach will allow for adaptation overtime to ensure sustainable growth that accommodates the needs of all inhabitants.
Upon completion of our work in Urur/Olcott Kuppam, we will begin working in similar fishing villages throughout Tamil Nadu to implement a similar process-driven approach. Every process will result in a strategic framework + report to catalogue existing conditions, resource availability, future planning/growth and custom design solutions.