In the heart of Satara, within Maharashtra's vibrant tapestry, an unassuming yet impactful revolution took root - a story anchored in sanitation's unsung champion: the toilet. Sagar Badekar, a Health Inspector, embarked on a journey that transcended waste management, weaving together access to toilets and communal health into a symphony of progress.
Sagar's journey unfolds against Satara's evolving landscape, mirroring its growth, challenges, and the pressing issue of waste management. His passion for communal welfare sprang from firsthand experiences as a sanitation worker. Progressing from this role to Health Officer and later to Health Inspector, driven by higher education and commitment, Sagar saw how complex challenges in the city of Satara proved to be a hindrance to delivering important services to its citizens. It was during this time that his conviction about toilets being the cornerstone of sanitation service delivery to the most vulnerable grew stronger.
The burgeoning population in Satara, growing from a modest city to one bustling with over two and a half lakhs of residents, resulted in a parallel surge in waste generation. This surge stressed the city's waste management and health systems, spotlighting the mounting waste crisis accompanying rapid urbanization.
The Satara City Municipal Council, securing CSR funding, established a Sewage Processing Center at the Songaon Garbage Depot. Employing modern technology, this facility operates a faecal sludge desludging unit, facilitating comprehensive sewage management across diverse city zones. One such zone encompasses slum areas, constrained by financial barriers that limit access to essential services like desludging. Here, the Municipal Council initiated a pilot program offering free sewage pumping every three years. This alleviates financial burdens on residents, aiming for equitable health service distribution. Sanitrack, an app for daily data recording, is used to monitor this pilot zone, storing sewage data accessible via a dashboard.
Another key initiative involves converting sewage into fertilizer, delighting local villagers. Previously contaminating water sources and impacting both livestock and people's health, sewage now sees utilization thanks to innovative projects by the Satara Nagar Parishad. Furthermore, the Council's initiatives, including expanding sewage processing projects and introducing innovative mechanisms like the dewatering unit, reflect a proactive approach to manage sewage effectively amidst projected population growth.
Sagar's narrative unveiled strides taken by the Satara Municipal Council in erecting sewage processing plants and promoting toilet construction. Government subsidies of Rs. 12,000/- coupled with an additional Rs. 5,000/- from the Council enable households to construct Individual Household Latrines (IHL), under the Swachh Survekshan Mission, combating open defecation and preserving dignity and health.
Sagar also mentions that Satara's waste management was not a lonesome one. It flourished through strategic collaborations with all important stakeholders. Self-Help Groups (SHGs) became pivotal in handling waste and educating communities about the importance of sanitation health facilities, bridging educational disparities. Their integration catalyzed community engagement for toilet construction, highlighting SHGs' transformative impact on sanitation, livelihoods, and economic stability.
"Toilets empower communities," stresses Sagar, highlighting the broader impact beyond infrastructure. As Satara steers towards better waste management, Sagar envisions a future where waste is managed, cities thrive, and every citizen's right to health and sanitation is honored.