The industrial era has caused differentiations in the human activities of living, working and recreation in the name of “efficiency” in production and management. Unfortunately, this has led to over-centralization, causing the growth of big urban conglomerations and depletion of comprehensible human settlements. The basis of the growth has been “economics” and not “human happiness”. Indeed, with greater productivity, human well-being has suffered, till the man himself has tended to become a tool in the vast mechanical world of his own marking. This system is primarily responsible for the overall pollution of the atmosphere, water, and land environment. It is also responsible for the indiscriminate destruction of the resources of living available from the “environment”.
Nature has always been sustained by cyclic or ecological systems. Everything returns to its source. Water, evaporating, travelling the skies, precipitating and flowing, finally returns to the sea from where it initially evaporated. Air is breathed by living beings – human and animal – consuming oxygen for life support and exhaling carbon-dioxide as waste, which becomes food for plants again exhaling oxygen as waste …
It is quite true that man has always tended to disturb the balance of nature. In fact the creating of several great deserts on earth is attributed to disturbance by man. For a long time in human history, the quantum of disturbance being small, and the population to land ratio being large, nature has been able to adjust the imbalance. But the industrial civilization has tended to upset the balance so much that the life on earth has approached the threshold of a major man-made catastrophe.
It is high time that we take a look at the fundamentals of human settlements, and evolve a system whereby we can live a rewarding life of happiness and prosperity making the best use of the knowledge that man has acquired. Happiness for all can only be had by ensuring “Plenty” for all, and by ensuring minimum “waste”. This can only be done by creating units of living in which each resource is to put to maximum “productive” use and “cycled” for reuse to the extent our present knowledge permits. The until has to be of human comprehension so that it does not become abstract or dehumanised like in a vast industrial empire.
The purpose of this study is to examine the possibility of creating a “universal” living environment, as self-sufficient as possible, through agriculture, horticulture, vegetable farming, animal husbandry, fishery, poultry, bee-farming, and cottage industry, and cycling the waste from one activity for utilization by the other, so that very little goes to waste. The intention is also to establish a living pattern so that, despite happenings in the world over which a community has no control (for example: an oil embargo, a fall in the value of currency, depletion of tourist traffic, state of conflict between nations affecting foreign trade), such a community may be able to sustain a reasonable life pattern from its own resource.
Living consists of having a house and regular supply of nutrients and energy, we are here concerned with the nutrients from the land and animals, and energy from coal and electricity etc.
In our present system the nutrients are produced far away from the places of living and transported for consumption by railways, trucks and other means of transport, and the energy is conveyed through wires, pipes and also by transport. We also need large quantities of pure water which is supplied by pipes in privileged living places. Elsewhere people fetch water from wells, rivers and ponds.
In most cases there is a big waste of energy in transportation of the supplies. There is even greater waste in the disposal of waste products from the households. The wastewater, the excreta – vegetable and animal waste are considered a nuisance and most is disposed of at a considerable cost on the outskirts of the places of habitation, causing pollution of the environment. In a few cases the wastes are processed, e.g., sewage treatment plants – and the manure thus produced is utilized. Rainwater, when it falls on open land, finds its way to the underground natural reservoir through percolation, but when wastewater is disposed of through pipes, it does not find its way back to the original source and this causes water scarcity in the underground resources.
It is said that all smell from animal wasters (excreta) comes from its energy content methane gas. Left as it is, this gas is a nuisance to the environment and a waste of energy. If harnessed it is a useful product with no pollution of environment.
It is worthwhile to integrate with living the production of those nutrients which should be consumed immediately after production, such as milk, eggs, meat, fish, vegetables, and fruits. It is not considered desirable to integrate production of wheat, rice, pulses, oilseeds, etc. with living as these products can more profitably be produced in large areas of land and can easily be stored over long periods, and transported to the place of consumption at convenient intervals. In general it can be said that such a scheme of integration of living, farming and animal husbandry is likely to produce the following results:
- Greater employment near the place of habitation.
- Recycling of waste so that very little ultimate waste will be left for final disposal.
- Scientific application of knowledge in farming.
- Decrease in the stress as transportation systems which are now becoming a bane of all habitation areas.
- Less environment pollution
- Availability of essential supplies next to the place of living.
For the purpose of this study, I have assumed a settlement of 500 families or 2500 persons at the rate of 5 persons per family. There is no definite basis for this assumption, nor is it to be considered rigid. But it does make for a reasonably good-sized neighbourhood in India. It could start with about 250 families and ultimately grow up to 500 families or so. The actual plan prepared for this paper contains 448 dwelling units. For the purpose of ease of calculations, we shall take these as 450 units (Fig. 1)
A small residential unit has been assumed which consists of:
Ground Floor: Two rooms 150 sq.ft each (approx.) including kitchen facilities, one courtyard with toilet and storage facilities.
Upper floor: one room 150 sq.ft and a terrace (fig.2). This house, which is meant to contain a family of five persons, gives an occupancy ratio of less than two persons per room which, according to Indian conditions, is very good indeed. It is possible to add another room at a later stage. Indeed the whole plan can be developed in stages starting with just one room and a courtyard. The area of the plot has been kept as 13’6”X40’6” or 4mX12m i.e. approx. 60 sq.yds or 50 sq.meters. This size of plot and house may appear to be small to some people (especially state employees living in state-provided accommodation) but is indeed much better than what most well-to-do people can afford in the towns and cities of India if they have to rent a house in the open market. The proposed plan is not meant to be rigid. It should be modified to suit the genius of the designer at a particular situation, provided the land occupied per house does not increase.
The settlement area can provide those items of nutrition that can be consumed immediately on production.
It has been assumed that 70 percent of the families will be non-vegetarian and 30 percent of the families vegetarian. For our purpose we have assumed “moderate” working families consisting of one adult male, one adult female, two adolescents and one infant.
It is, therefore, necessary to study the problems and potentials of the animals, fish and vegetables. The figures presented here are drawn from the National Dairy Research Institute, Punjab Agricultural University, Department of Fisheries, and interviews with farmers. The difficulty has been that none of the above institutions, nor the farmers, have been tackling the problem from the points of view of integrating the products with human settlements. All the work seems to have been done either for research or for commercial exploitation. Thus a farmer is interested in growing vegetables or rearing poultry for the purpose of selling in the city market to meet the demand and to earn a profit. He is not interested in knowing how much nutritional value his products have or how many families his farm could support.
It is, therefore, necessary to explain the assumptions that have been made regarding the housing requirements, productivity and costing of all the animals and activities we have incorporated in the plan.
Cows: Cows are kept in “loose housing” in confined areas which are partly covered and partly open. Each cow requires 30 sq.ft. covered area, 20 sq.ft. ancillary covered area for claves and stores, and 35 sq.ft. of open area. A minimum of 10 cows can be kept economically, but 30 cows make an optimum economic unit. One such cow provides milk for 7 or 8 families. Such a cow is assumed to produce 15 kg of dung per day which can be converted into 19.5 cu.ft. gobar gas and 35 cart-loads of fertilizer which will fertilize about 500 sq.yds of land. One hectare of land is required for growing fodder for 10 cows. One person is required for looking after 5 cows. But additional persons are required for handling the gobar gas plant and for processing the milk. Thus 30 cows are expected to generate employment for 8 persons.
Goats: Goats are kept in “loose housing”. Each goat requires 8 sq.ft covered area, 6 sq.ft ancillary covered area for kids and storage, and 8 sq. ft of open area. Goats are kept essentially for meat, but also yield milk, which though not very popular, is very good for invalids and children. One cross-bred full grown goat costing approx. Rs.300/- breeds twice in one year and yields two kids each time (average per year 4.22). if the goat population in a shed is to be maintained at a constant level, then each goat will make 3 goats available for slaughter every year (maturity for slaughter is reached in 21 months). But since a shed will inevitably have about 1/3 he-goats growing for slaughter and about 2/3 for breeding we will get an average of 2 kids per goat for slaughter per year. Each goat gives about 50 kg of meat. Of this 75 percent is assumed to be consumable.
The by-products from goats are hair, skin and hoofs, which are used for making brushes, leather goods and glue respectively. Three persons can look after about 100 goats. Land required for growing fodder is approx. ½ hectare or 1¼ acre of 100 goats, but it can be reduced if leaves, etc. are fed to the goats.
Pigs: Pigs, also reared in “loose housing”, are raised entirely for meat. The mortality rate in pigs is rather high – 30 percent. But a sow gives birth to as many as 60 piglets in a year and each piglet if ready to breed in about 6 month’s time. This means that it can be assumed that each sow will provide at least 40 alive pigs for slaughter in a year and it may be assumed that each pig will give about 75 kg of consumable meat.
Hair, blood and hoofs of pigs are saleable items. Computing the space requirements for pigs is rather difficult, because the pigs breed fast and most people keeping pigs do not rear them under shelter. Although an individual sow may not need more than about 12 sq. ft., it has been assumed that each sow with its piglets and ancillaries may need about 50 sq. ft. of covered space (as much as a cow) and 40 sq. ft. of open space else consumes and therefore the cost of the feed is very small. Manpower requirements may be taken as two persons for looking after, feeding, and slaughtering, etc. about 20 sows and their litters.
Poultry: Chicken can be kept in entirely confined sheds. No open space if needed for them. Being light and easily transportable they can be housed on upper levels, say the roofs of houses or other animal sheds. There are two types of poultry: broilers for meat and layers for eggs. They are kept separately.
- Broilers: Broilers being small require 1 sq.ft covered space per bird. The floor of the sheds has a layer of rice-husk 3-4 inches or 10 cms thick. Bird droppings turn this into manure which amounts to 1 quintal for 10 birds in 1 year (bird droppings without rice-husk are also useful for the fishponds). A broiler bird is ready for slaughter in 8 weeks, when it weighs 800-900 gr. And in that time it consumes 2.5 kg of feed. Two men can look after up to 5,000 broilers.
- Layers: Layers require 2.5 sq.ft covered space per bird. The floor is covered with rice-husk as for the broilers, and the yields of manure is 1 quintal for 4 birds. Feed requirements are the same but the quantity consumed by each bird is 42 kg per year. Layers begin to lay eggs when 8 weeks old and continue to do so till they are 18 months old when they are sold for meat. A thousand birds are expected to produce 225,000 eggs. Two men are required to look after up to 2,000 birds. The birds need injections and medicines to keep them free of diseases.
Fish: Fish farming in ponds is now a practical and profitable proposition. The basic intention of a pond within a housing settlement is to have a place for storage and processing of wastewater from the houses before it is used for irrigating the vegetable farms. Fish prevent harmful insects from breeding and thus eliminate the nuisances of a pond. Various types of fish that can be reared in still pondwater are: Kalta, Rahu, Mirgal, Kalabans, Mirror Carp, Common Carp and Grass Carp. They grow rapidly without competing with each other for food, but they do not breed in standing water. Therefore, fish seed has to be obtained from fish farms at Rs. 50/- for a thousand seeds.
Fish ponds can be any size – even as small as ¼ acre with a depth from 4½ ft to 6 ft (1½m to 2m) and they should be lined with some impervious material so that water does not leak out.
One fish pond of ½ hectare (1¼ acre) will produce approx. 45,000 kg of fish per year. One person working part time can look after such a fish pond.
Vegetable farming: Vegetable farms can be continuously cultivated and 4 crops (2 winter and 2 summer) can be obtained in 1 year. Vegetable farming needs constant care – weeding, watering, spraying etc. After each crop the field has to prepared for the next one by digging, watering and manuring. This takes about 15 days. A crop of vegetables gives a produce of 100 -125 quintals per acre, depending on the type of vegetable grown (excluding the plants which serve as animal feed). It may thus be assumed that an acre of land will produce appro.. 450 quintals of vegetables per year. A minimum of 2 persons is required for looking after 1 acre of vegetable farm. But for weeding 6 persons are required per acre, and weeding has to be done once a week. Some persons are also required at the time of preparation of the ground. Thus it may be assumed that 3 persons per acre are required for gradual farming, sowing and weeding.
But if further wealth is generated by incorporating small-scale industries, we may narrow the gap of the shortfall.
For this purpose, the plan makes provision for small-scale industrial sheds. The following activities are intended to take place in these sheds:
1. Leatherwork, from the skins of the slaughtered animals. Thus the requirements os shoes, belts, suitcases, can be met on the spot.
2. Brush making – from the hair of pigs and goats.
3. Creamery – from the spare milk of cows and goats.
4. Spinning and weaving – for this purpose cotton will have to be brought from outside.
5. Food processing – from surplus meat.
6. Tailoring, dyeing, laundering, etc.
7. Repairs of all types: cycles, stores, shoes, utensils etc.
It may even be possible to create a small scale building industry and building service on the settlement so that the settlers can draw upon it to build their houses and sheds.
Having done this exercise, gives a rule of thumb formula for working out the requirement of animals and land to produce the items of nutrition listed earlier (milk, meat, eggs, and vegetables) for a settlement containing 100 families. This gave a basis for the preparation of further layout plans, one of which is included.
The study of the various layout has revealed that it is possible to create a self-sustaining living environment in which the basic perishable food requirements are produced on the site itself. Whereas the production of vegetables takes a lot of land, and is, therefore, not expected to generate surplus wealth, the production of meat and milk takes very little space to meet the requirements of nutrition. It is, therefore, shown that these products can generate enough surplus wealth to meet the requirements of the other essential items of nutrition – namely, cereals, pulses, sugar and oil.
Thus it is seen that the surplus wealth produced by growing perishable nutrition items will meet the cost of the non-perishable items which will have to be purchased from the market. But this surplus is not intended to be spent directly on the purchase of the food grains, etc. but on the promotion of cottage industries such as those listed above. The purpose is to generate more employment and more surplus, so that eventually the expenses of clothing, houses, schools, medical, and community facilities can be met from the wealth produced by a self-sustaining settlement.
The layout plans also show that 50 to 75 percent of the heads of households can find employment on settlement. This does not account for management work, building labour, and other persons engaged on casual work, and it may be possible that all families can find employment on the settlement if more intensification of utilization of resource is practised by new scientific methods. But it is not possible to visualize that at this stage. Space for extra activities can, however, be created within the layout plan by making two or three story structure instead of single story sheds.
Water: There is hardly any place in the world where the water supply has not become scarce. In our settlement it is intended that the water is circulated to full utilization. The initial supply of water to the houses can be from a tube-well, or a city supply system. If these are not available, there should be no objection to installing a hand-pump in each house as the basic source of water supply.
Wastewater from washing should be collected through pipes to a sump near the fish pond (which is built at a higher level) and pumped into it. The pump should run on the gas generated by gobar or human excreta. From the fish pond the water should be used for irrigating the vegetable fields and open spaces. As the pond is at a higher level this can be done by gravity from the fields the water will percolate to the subsoil and recharge the original source.
Night soil: The use of the normal flush system for the disposal of night soil is not intended because it is wasteful of water. Night soil, which can be flushed by a small quantity of water poured by a tumbler, is itself a generator of methane gas and manure and it can also be combined with cow dung. The wastewater remaining after production of gas is freeform small and can be used for irrigation like the wastewater from washing, etc. By this method the usual large sewers of urban settlements can be eliminated and the whole water disposal can take place within the settlement.
Realization of the settlement
The essential prerequisite for any settlement is the creation of jobs, or better, self-employment. Employment should be such as to produce reasonable surplus from subsistence so that a person can pay for clothing and shelter. Only under such conditions is it worthwhile to undertake the establishment of a human settlement. It is, therefore, clear that the wealth generating or employment creating activities have to take precedence over the building of houses. Therefore, the rearing of various animals of milk, meat and eggs and establishing vegetable farm buildings, fish ponds and gobar gas plants have to take precedence over building houses. Thus one finds that building labourers and craftsman are the first to move to the site of any new settlement. The building labourers build temporary shelters for themselves from the materials with which the regular structures are to be built and when their work is over, their temporary shelters are dismantled and the building labour force moves on to another site. The best policy would be to lease land to anyone who comes to work on any proposed settlement who has some skill in masonry, carpentry, smithy, plumbing or other crafts like floor laying waterproofing, electric writing etc. they can be allotted a plot on easy terms for a 5-year lease, extendible indefinitely but on terms that lease rate is decided by the settlement management. The lessee should have no right to dispose of the property to anyone other than the management. Thus, if a lessee wants to move to some other place he can sell the property back to the management at a price fixed according to norms which will be laid down. This will eliminate speculation and consequent inflation in land prices. It will also create opportunities for poor people to find a place of employment and permanent settlement.
This approach is contrary to the normal present-day thinking in settlement planning where living, working, care-of-body-and-spirit, are looked at as separate compartments of activities, and provided for accordingly. Gradually the separation has become so much that one has to travel a long distance before one can get to a place of either living, or working, or recreating, etc. the problems of living, transportation and servicing have become so concentrated and magnified that any mistake or mishap at one place adversely affects a large population which has no control over the mistake. People in Delhi suffer from gastro-enteritis because of an over-centralization of supply of water and handling sewerage. In this paper an attempt has been made to create small self-sustaining, comprehensible, controllable settlements which have a universal validity. It would be wrong to think that they have no place in this cities. Indeed, if they are established in the cities, most of the problems which are the product of over-concentration will be automatically solved. The agricultural universities could become the pacesetters for universal adoption of this pattern of settlements, so that this study which his only a mathematical model can be suitably amended for practical application in numerous different locations and situations.