Praveen Nagaraja

Sanitation Changemaker

Envisioning a world where sanitation is not a privilege but a humanitarian right

Praveen's venture into the not-so-glamorous world of fecal sludge management (FSM) began with an internship that initially seemed baffling to him. However, this experience turned out to be the catalyst that ignited his passion for a cause that resonated deeply within him. Hailing from a mechanical engineering background and a stint in the mining industry, Praveen's quest for deeper significance led him to Institute of Rural Management Anand, a B School espousing values steering towards nurturing professionals for non-profits and cooperatives. His journey in FSM when he decided to pursue an internship opportunity with CDD society during his MBA. Despite initial confusion about fecal sludge management's intricacies and necessity for a business model, Praveen plunged into the assignment, discovering the complexity within stakeholders' needs and dynamics, an experience that reshaped his path and instilled his belief in FSM as a solution. Little did he realize the profound impact this assignment would have on his life and the lives of countless others.

The shift in Praveen's perspective came during his fieldwork in Nepal post the 2015 earthquake. Amidst the aftermath, he recognized the profound impact of sanitation amidst dire humanitarian needs. The unsanitary conditions were causing significant distress, impacting not just their physical health but also their dignity and overall well-being. Witnessing the consequences of inadequate sanitation on people's lives during a disaster ignited a passion within him. He recognized that sanitation, particularly inclusive sanitation, was not merely a matter of waste management but a fundamental human right. He delved into learning the intricacies of sanitation, utilizing his experience to set up the first fecal sludge treatment plant in Nepal after the earthquake.

Returning from Nepal, Praveen's dedication to transforming sanitation in India grew stronger. However, he recognized that the issue extended beyond technical solutions; it required a societal shift in perspective. Praveen's work with CDD took shape, realizing - scalable impact hinges not just on infrastructural design but on advocacy, education, and influencing policy. Armed with no background in civil or environmental sciences, he had to learn quickly, right from the basics to cutting-edge innovations. His entire journey of learning was intensive and elaborate - from theory and research, scaled-down experimentation, full-scale pilots, and monitoring. Praveen recalls how his foray into training and capacity building was shaped by the need to make sanitation a household subject which is well understood by everyone. These days, he endeavors to explain to a broader audience, in simple terms, solutions to complex urban sanitation problems, through trainings and government engagements via creative and innovative methods of delivery. 

As Praveen's journey progressed, so did the sector's evolution. From struggling to explain the need for faecal sludge management to governments, the landscape shifted. Awareness grew, policies evolved, and burgeoning private sector involvement signaled progress.

Praveen's involvement with the NFSSM Alliance provided access to a network that shared his vision, fostering collective wisdom and solutions. The Alliance's collaborative platform offered a repository of shared experiences, streamlining problem-solving and catalyzing faster responses.  This platform nurtured collaboration and expedited solutions, offering a space for collective learning and knowledge exchange, empowering faster responses to sector challenges.

Praveen's aspirations for the sector are clear and profound: envisioning a world where sanitation is not a privilege but a humanitarian right, where cities thrived in resilience and inclusivity, unchained from the burdens of inadequate waste management.

Praveen's journey is not just about waste management; it is a testament to the transformative impact individuals can have when driven by empathy and a relentless pursuit of social justice. His story stands as a beacon of hope, inspiring others to embark on journeys that may initially seem daunting but ultimately lead to profound change.