Project Title: Promotion of Eco friendly Construction Technologies for Informal Settlements (PECTIS)
Project objectives: The project aims to i) provide cost-effective human and solid waste management through the use of an eco-friendly building technology (i.e. ISSB or another constructed earth method); ii) reduce the impact of untreated waste flowing into fragile ecosystems; iii) create entrepreneurial opportunities for individuals and groups in the community.
Namuwongo is a section of Kampala lining the south western side of the Nakivubo wetland between Kibuli Industrial Area and Muyenga, an uptown suburb. An informal settlement is sandwiched between the railroad tracks and the wetland/swamp in which most building construction is currently carried out with a range of materials from wattle and daub to fired-bricks. The traditional method of firing bricks in Uganda consumes large quantities of firewood and can lead to as many as 20 percent of the bricks being wasted due to uneven temperatures in the oven. The large amounts of firewood needed to fire bricks contribute to deforestation, which leads to a loss of biodiversity, soil erosion, and air pollution.
Very little community infrastructure (toilets, water points, rainwater channelization, solid waste storage) is existing in the Namuwongo area. Three community toilets serve an estimated population of 1,500 in Yoka Zone at a fee of 200 UGX per use. Due to either little or no access and funds, many residents of the area resort to defecating in a plastic bag which is then thrown in the nearby wetland or channel (aka “flying toilet”). To our knowledge, the ISSB technology is not yet being used to construct toilets in the six zones that make up Namuwongo on a communal basis.
The neighbouring Nakivubo swamp receives millions of litres of rainwater and untreated sewage from Nakivubo channel and associated tributaries. In fact, roughly half of the city is relying on this wetland to store and clean its rain and sewage waters before discharging them into the Murchison Bay. Due to the steep slope of the land in this informal settlement and its proximity to the wetland, there is potential of a direct human impact on the health of this ecosystem. During heavy rains, uncollected garbage and human faeces are washed into the swamp smothering flora and causing the bacterial count to spike. Already faced with a large inflow of polluted water from the channelized stream which drains much of Kampala’s storm water and sewerage, Nakivubo swamp cannot cope with additional solid and human waste from the settlements along its banks.
The Proposed Solution:
The first approach of this project is the use of Interlocking Soil Stabilised Brick making machines (ISSB). This technology is affordable as the machines can be fabricated in Kampala and used to make bricks with community labour and available raw materials (soil, water, etc.). It is also environmentally friendly because it eliminates the use of firewood for burning of the bricks, and it makes use of the soil that has been excavated in the area (Note: not all local soil is useful, hence the project may need to import soil from nearby localities). The ISSBs also require minimal use of cement hence greatly reducing the overall cost of construction. By using this affordable and environmentally friendly technology, this project aims at promoting the construction of essential infrastructure such as toilets, drainage channels and solid waste collection points for communities and households.
As a result of this project, youth groups will be empowered with entrepreneurial skills that will enable them to engage in Income Generation Activities. In implementing this project the communities benefit with improved sanitation and hygiene; the youth become gainfully employed in an economic period that is challenging to them; and there is protection of a sensitive ecosystem and crucially important environmental service provider for Kampala city (the Nakivubo Swamp).
The project will take a “Learning by Doing” approach in which community participation will play a crucial role in the choice of sites, equipment, structures, and methodology. The project seeks to work with groups already existing in the community. However, in the case that these groups are not formalised, the project will seek to support them to formalize their structures and have legal registration and recognition. Needs of this nature will be identified and clarified through the baseline study which will seek to have clear information of the area.
In addition, Ugandan students of ‘built environment/architecture’ will assist communities in construction design, sitting, and construction. The additional benefit of the involvement of the university students is to enable a learning culture that goes beyond the theoretical model of teaching and incorporates a ‘hands on’ approach. This partnership in the project will ensure that the model developed is assessed and that involving the students ensures that the proto types are developed with professional expertise. It is expected that this involvement of students in practical projects will encourage other students and universities to adopt this approach as a best practice.
The project will provide skills and awareness creation to the communities. This is through empowering of the communities in entrepreneurship, cooperatives, and management structures for sustainability. In initial visits and communications with the communities, it was realized that Namuwongo continues to have a large slum area characterised by youth who have no formal employment. As a result this project will help such youth to have income generating activities and boost the economic status of this area.
Finally, this project will increase awareness of the communities on the importance of environmental sustainability and the impact of their activities on the wetland. This will be through environmental campaigns carried out through the area, spear headed by the local authorities.