Six slums in Miraj and Sangli have shown the rest of the state how clean individual toilets can exist in slums.
In a state where 42 per cent of homes do not have toilets, and Chief Minister Ashok Chavan has promised the state will be free of open defecation by 2012, these micro models of sanitation have shown the sustainable way ahead.
Until three years ago, every day began badly for 50-year-old Mariam Bai, mother of 10, who lives in Jatkar, an urban slum in the city of Miraj, 390 km south east of Mumbai.
She would wake up at 4 am and walk for 15 minutes to the nearest badly maintained public toilet, or to an open ground to relieve herself. Many times, when she was unwell, she would soil her clothes while standing in line at a public toilet.
In 2004, things changed. Shelter Associates, a Pune-based NGO working with the urban poor, and the Sangli Miraj Kupwad Municipal Corporation (SMKMC) launched a project to build individual toilets for six slums in the Sangli-Miraj area.
Almost 15 per cent of the five lakh people living inside SMKMC limits are in slums that lack basic civic infrastructure.
By end-2006, 700 individual toilets were built in the six slums, housing over 1,000 families.
For a mere Rs 800, which was 20 per cent of the total cost of building it, Mariam had a toilet for her home, with 40 per cent contributed by SMKMC and 40 per cent by Shelter.
“Life changed for us. Our relatives, who never visited us before, now first stop to see our toilet before entering our house,” says another resident Noorjahan, giving only her first name.
The Miraj model began with a ground survey by SMKMC, which the slumdwellers laid out over a Geographical Information Systems map.
“We had information on the households as well as the space available for construction. In consultation with the municipal commissioner, we designed toilets based on the needs of the community, with space for a footpath through the slums and individual toilets outside each home. In some cases two houses shared a toilet,” said Pratima Joshi, an architect, and director at Shelter Associates.
Nitin Savgave, newly appointed mayor of SMKMC, said more such sustainable models need to come up.
Savgave added that the civic corporation is in the process of mapping the entire municipal area to form a city sanitation plan.