Mapping Poor Sanitation System in Rawalpindi, Pakistan

SaafPindi — Project Summary — Inadequate Sanitation — Contaminated Water — Cholera

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This is the summary of the idea that was part of my proposal for TED City2.0 competition.

SaafPindi project objective is to map the sewerage infrastructure in Rawalpindi to show on ground situation through online maps, make the data open and track the progress and Government spending in every street of the city.

Lack of proper sewerage infrastructure and clean water results in water-borne diseases like cholera, that has become the second biggest killer of children in South Asia. More than half (54%) the Indian population defecated in the open in 2008. In Pakistan, only 18% of the population has access to the proper sewerage infrastructure. Except for Islamabad, proper sanitation and sewerage is not available to more than 50% of the population.

Further, Governments do not spend money in improving sanitation nor there is pressure from the general people to improve this situation. In Pakistan only .037% of the budget is spent on improving sanitation. Highlighting these issues on the Internet through maps and open data is one of the solution to highlight this issue and find out possible solutions to such an important city 2.0 developments.

Urban infrastructure maps are the essential basis for any coherent infrastructure planning, . Data and mapping is key in building, maintaining, upgrading and re-building the cities of today and future. The time at which Google and Apple are going to launch 3D maps for better navigation, more than half of the world lacks proper sanitation infrastructure. The worst part is that such an important issue in not highlighted in the online mapping space except for few limited exceptions.

SaafPindi project is to highlight the poor sewerage infrastructure using online maps. For city 2.0 project we are focusing on mapping open sanitation pathways and points where un-treated sanitation waste is dumped in to the natural water channels (rivers and canals), in the city of Rawalpindi, 4th largest city in Pakistan, with 5 million population. Our focus is to do sanitation mapping for advocacy, change and improvement in city by involving local community, and online tracking of the progress made by the Governments. One base mapping is done, we will add additional layers in the map to review improvements, budget allocations and maintenance of sanitation facilities through the community involvement. The additional layers of map with water-borne diseases reported in the hospitals will provide the relationship between sanitation and diseases in the area.

Imagine, as a human being one cannot pass through these places without putting his/her on her noise to refrain from the smell of the surrounding, how a person can live 60 years in such environment. We have to change it!!!

The best part of the project is that this can be linked with up-coming elections in 2013. The knowledge-able people can understand what is best for them from this data and maps and can bring a real change through the democracy.


Written by faisalchohan

September 23, 2012 at 9:42 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

SaffPindi- Differentiating cities from Slums. A case of Rawalpindi.

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Rawalpindi is 4th largest city in Pakistan after Karachi, Lahore and Faisalabad with an estimated 1.8 million population.  In 1950s, Rawalpindi was smaller than Hyderabad but the city’s economy received a boost with building of federal capital adjusant to its boundaries in late 1960s. This resulted in increase in its population almost 5 times. The city serves as an economic hub to the neighbouring town like Murree, Chakwal and Wah Cantt.

The increase in size and population doesn’t resulted in harmony with its infrastructure. The city does not provide a proper sewerage system to more than 70% of the population. 80% of the water is not safe for drinking. Open plots in residential areas are used for disposal of waste. The deteriorating situation forces us to think how can we differentiate living in this city from living in a slum?

UN-HABITAT defined slum, as a run-down area of a city characterized by substandard housing and squalor and lacking one or more of the following.

  1. Durable housing of a permanent nature that protects against extreme climate conditions.
  2. Sufficient living space which means not more than three people sharing the same room.
  3. Easy access to safe water in sufficient amounts at an affordable price.
  4. Access to adequate sanitation in the form of a private or public toilet shared by a reasonable number of people.
  5. Security of tenure that prevents forced evictions

Whereas Cities offer all of the above and are central hub of economic activities. Cities generally have complex systems for sanitation, utilities, land usage, housing, and transportation. The concentration of development greatly facilitates interaction between people and businesses, benefiting both parties in the process. Cities are often categorized by the number of population, e.g. in Australia cities have minimum threshold of 10,000 people. In China, the number goes as high as 100,00 non-agriculture urbanized population.

As per above definition, we may easily categorize Rawalpindi as a developed slum.


Written by faisalchohan

September 22, 2012 at 11:31 am

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Birth of SaffPindi Project

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I listen to people talking about their cities. I visited and lived in Los Angeles, Menlo Park, London, Edinburgh in 2012. I was invloved in conversation around how Olympics changes the collaboration among citizens. How the hacker spaces becomes places for greater innovation and how people of a city create their own currency to improve the cities economy. In the same year, I am spending some time living in city of Rawalpindi. When a city does not provide basic facilities like clean water, sanitation system and waste disposal then how we will differentiate the living in the cities from living in Slums.

I was in TED 2012 long beach when City2.0 initiative was announced at TED. I was excited that how locals will think about improving their cities. Then in June, 2012 I got email to participate in the TED prize for City 2.0.

I am not an architect, city planner, a sanitation expert, nor heads any program in any NGO. How can I contribute towards building or modifying a city and can be awarded a prize in City2.0 category?.

I tried to contact organizations that work in improving sanitation system. Some were too busy to respond. Some responded and provided great help. Then, I made my presentation around the experiences I faced in day to day living in Rawalpindi. I pitched for TED prize on 22nd June, 2012. Unexpectedly, I won the TED prize in 2012 giving $10,000 to implement my imagination.

I am a tech entrepreneur. I believe in opening up hidden data. I make visualizations. 30% of the deaths in the city of Rawalpindi are due to contaminated water that is interlinked with the poor sanitation system of the city. This cannot be ignored. And we are here to highlight this issue and make this a priority to be solved by the Government and inhabitants of the city.

Welcome to the SaafPindi Project.

Written by faisalchohan

September 12, 2012 at 10:23 pm

Posted in Uncategorized