In Bosevana, a small lowincome shanty settlement in Colombo, Sri Lanka, 37 families who have built houses on the plots allocated to them by the National Housing Development Authority faced the problem of the lack of basic amenities such as toilets, drains, water supply and electricity. A project to construct a community-managed sewer disposal system was implemented and monitored through a participatory mechanism facilitated by SEVANATHA, a grassroots NGO concerned with the shelter and environmental issues of urban lowincome groups. SEVANATHA, founded in 1989, grew out of demands made by urban communitybased organizations for information and advisory services to develop selfmanaged infrastructure and to upgrade lowincome settlements. In this project, implemented between 1993 and 1994, individual families and the community, through a Community Development Council (CDC) took responsibility for the construction and maintenance of the sewer system. Local people provided 165 days of unskilled labour for sewer line construction and each household contributed Rs. 4000 to construct a private toilet. Government and local authority agencies played the role of policy maker and provider of technical advice and planning clearance. A Japanese volunteer, from the Small Scale Grant Scheme, assisted the CDC and SEVANATHA to find financial support for community-managed infrastructure development in Bosevana.
Several activities were incorporated into this project including: community training on selfmanaged community services, community mobilization, handing over construction for community supervision, construction activities, and training for community leaders on maintenance. Since the key decision maker and implementor of this type of project is the community, SEVANATHA considers community training an essential element of the community mobilization process for sustainable development. Training varied from the simple problem identification exercise to comprehensive operational and maintenance displays, all of which were coordinated with the various stages of project implementation. Women play an essential role in community mobilization and in Bosevana, a woman was given leadership of both the CDC and the women's group. With SEVANATHA's help, these two organizations mobilized their people to obtain approval and proper technical designs from the government and local authority, to organize the community for construction works and supervision, to build individual private toilets, and to carry out operation and maintenance activities. The women's organization selected a skilled person for construction, and supervision was done by the people at the site. Payments for materials and labour were made by SEVANATHA upon the community's approval. After completion of the sewer system, an experienced technical officer gave a workshop to train community members on the day-to-day operation and maintenance aspects of a community-managed sewer system and the system was then handed over for community management.
The project at Bosevana is seen as an excellent example of community- managed amenities in urban low income settlements in Sri Lanka. Some positive aspects include: people have mobilized their own resources to improve their sanitation situation at household as well as at settlement level; people's attitude of waiting for local authority and government assistance for the provision and maintenance of services is now changed; and donor agencies have appreciated the NGOcommunity working relationship, the use of small grants to build infrastructure, and the mobilization of the community for sustainable development. Based on the innovative experience of this project, the Ministry of Housing, Construction and Urban Development has already taken action with World Bank support to replicate the Bosevana model in other lowincome settlements in the Colombo metropolitan area. As well, the United States Environment Training Institute has arranged to use the Bosevana project as a demonstration site for the regional training course on Environmental Management Through Community Development.