By: Aashay Khandekar
Despite having one of the most contrived sewerage networks, a huge chunk of city’s population still defecates outside; the primary reason being the absence of enough community and individual toilets. Keeping tabs on this issue, Shelter Associates, an NGO run by architect Pratima Joshi, has decided to empower the people living in slums with individual toilets and knowledge on solid waste management.
Working proactively since 1999 on the sanitation woes of the city, Shelter Associates were given a boost last year when Dasra Foundation, a strategic philanthropy group, approved their sanitation project plan under CSR and made funds available for the same.”In February 2013, Dasra Foundation declared a three year citywide slum sanitation programme. Due to our 16 year experience in the field, we got the funds and now we are working on the project,” says Joshi.
Under the project, Shelter Associates will be building more than 1,500 individual toilets in city slums till 2016. Till now, under the city slum sanitation project which started last year, Shelter Associates have constructed more than 500 individual toilets. The construction has picked up momentum as Shelter now have financial backing from Dasra Foundation. Construction work has been happening in the slums of Gokhale Nagar, Parvati and Yerawada and will soon spread to other eligible slums. “We have realised that the lack of access to clean toilets is responsible for many human issues like personal hygiene, safety, public health and above all dignity,” says Joshi. In 1999, when a project to build community toilets in the city was going on, Shelter participated actively in it.
However, the construction of community toilets didn’t help in solving the problem of outdoor defecation. “The community toilets were either in the remote corners of the slums or their condition was not good at all. The maintenance costs were soaring high,” says Joshi, who then decided to make the city ‘community toilet free’ by providing individual toilets in slums.
“When the toilets have family ownership, they are looked after well. While using community toilets, people didn’t show the same amount of responsibility, which they now show after getting their individual toilets. People think that building an individual toilet is costly affair. However, it is not true. The money spent on construction and maintenance of a community toilet is much higher than 10 individual toilets,” Joshi adds.
Another initiative taken by Shelter under project 2016 is imparting the knowledge of solid waste management to 22,000 families. “Slums do not have proper dustbins. They are far away from concepts like segregation of dry and wet waste. To minimize this ignorance, we are now conducting workshops in slums,” says Joshi.For the fulfillment of this project, Geographic Information System (GIS), a tool pioneered by Shelter Associates in early nineties is coming handy. “We easily get accurate information using the mapping technique. It helps us gauge our progress in the city.”
But how realistic is the goal of achieving sanitation in a city where over 60,000 people still defecate out in the open. “NGOs from other sectors like health and environment should get involved in this task. If the Government also goes at it hammer and tongs, I don’t see why we can’t make a difference by 2016,” concludes Joshi.