Ramakant Dake, Chief Municipal Council of Karad, Maharashtra embarked on a journey that would lead to making Karad one of the cleanest and most sustainable cities in India. Under his guidance, Karad achieved top ranks in the Swachh Survekshan surveys, and it is now recognized as a “Water Plus" city. This transformation reflects a pioneering vision for wastewater management, achieved by Dake’s dedication to community participation and hygiene.
The introduction of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, provided Ramakant and his team the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of citizens. While in charge of Pandharpur in 2014, Ramakant noticed how the river overflowing into the town caused major problems for the community, with many people having to vacate their homes. At the time, there were no toilets either and people would defecate in the open, and with the river overflowing it would create unsanitary and dangerous conditions. Ramakant noticed workers’ suffering in having to clean areas near the riverbed where people littered and openly defecated. He was a part of the Water Plus initiative which focused on bringing meaningful change not just to the city, but to the lives of sanitation workers. Through various campaigns, the initiative has targeted people’s paradigms towards sanitation workers, of seeing them as “dirty” or ignorable. With cleanliness campaigns, citizen’s attitudes towards sanitation workers have been driven towards respect, which is a major observable change.
The Water Plus journey dates to 1966, when P. D. Patil, the Mayor of Karad, envisioned a city with fully processed wastewater and multiple uses for it. This vision led to the creation of the underground drainage system. Simultaneously, an organization called Preethisangam Panisapuri Sanstha was established to supply treated water to farmers. This initiative not only benefited sanitation but also agriculture, reducing the use of fertilizers. Since 1974, Karad has been reusing wastewater 100%.
Community participation was key to Karad's success. Ramakant highlights that it was citizens' involvement that drove the transformation. They understood the benefits of cleanliness for their well-being. Karad's approach of not only collecting but also processing and reusing wastewater inspired and resonated with its people.
Ramakant’s vision is not just about rankings and surveys; it's about sustainable practices. The city is now working towards further reducing costs, increasing solar energy usage, and expanding green buildings. The aim is to involve maximum social groups to manage solid waste, ensuring that the municipality's costs are minimized, and citizens' daily lives are unaffected.
With citizens' transformed mindset and continual campaigns, Ramakant believes the pursuit of sustainability and clean water will be an ongoing success. He recognizes the positive change in society's perception of sanitation workers, who are now held in higher regard.
Ramakant is proud to be part of this journey and envisions even more positive changes for Karad. His vision focuses on reducing expenses, expanding the use of solar energy, and ensuring that the cleanliness initiatives continue to transform not only Karad but India as a whole. Under his leadership, Karad has set a shining example of prioritizing water management, cleanliness, and sustainability for other cities to follow.