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Published on: April 6, 2022, 2:08 p.m.
HT Parekh Foundation and the Kolhapur model
  • HT Parekh Foundation’s innovative sanitation initiatives are remarkable

By Business India Editorial

Kolhapur in Maharashtra has a population of approximately 6 lakh, of which 10 per cent live in slums. Most residents living here have limited access to sanitation services or infrastructure. Community toilets have a toilet seat to individual ratio of 1:20. They lack running water and electricity, long queues pose health and safety risks for women. The H T Parekh Foundation, HDFC Ltd’s philanthropic arm, saw Kolhapur as an ideal Tier II city to undertake innovative sanitation initiatives. 

The Foundation has been working in Kolhapur since 2016, with the aim of creating a model sanitation city through a multi-stakeholder collaborative approach involving civil society, slum communities and the Kolhapur Municipal Corporation (KMC). To achieve this goal, their interventions were grouped into three focus areas.

End open defecation: The Foundation partnered with Shelter Associates (Shelter) – a Pune-based non-profit, working to improve the living conditions of the urban poor in the areas of sanitation and housing since 1994. During the first year of support, a citywide slum mapping was undertaken using GIS technology to collect, organise and publish data gathered through surveys and mapping. Through this exercise, Shelter was able to identify areas that lacked drain connectivity and areas to improve drain network connectivity. 

This data-driven insight was shared at the outset with KMC and was key in facilitating the construction of 3,400+ individual household toilets, across 29 slums in Kolhapur between 2016-2020.Through Shelter’s ‘One Home One Toilet’ Initiative, the Foundation specifically focused on individual household toilets for families with senior citizens, persons with disabilities and adolescent girls, with the aim to provide sanitation solutions that are safe, hygienic and to afford dignity.

Advocacy and behaviour change: Shelter’s strong government and community relations were key to sustaining this initiative and taking it to scale. Through a series of awareness and behaviour change activities conducted with community members, Shelter was able to positively influence and change behaviour of families on safe sanitation practices, as well as increase the demand for individual toilets.

The Foundation’s follow-on strategy after providing access, focused on management and treatment of sanitation waste through faecal sludge and septage management (FSSM) solutions. For a majority of slums in Kolhapur, on-site sanitation options (septic tanks) were a viable solution for toilets not connected to drainage systems.

The Foundation partnered with the Centre for Water & Sanitation (CWAS) at CEPT University, a think-tank with the expertise in urban planning and operationalising interventions at the local and policy levels. CWAS conducted a citywide sanitation assessment in areas that relied on septic tanks and an FSSM plan was developed in consultation with KMC. 

Major challenge

A pilot zone consisting of 10,000 households connected to septic tanks was selected to implement scheduled desludging of septic tanks and ensure proper treatment of septage. Additionally, the Foundation supported the procurement of two 3000L capacity trucks with the capacity to desludge 8-10 septic tanks per day. To scale and sustain this initiative, CWAS partnered with the local government for manpower and desludging operations for ownership and sustainability.

A major challenge was the need to finance scheduled desludging, and CWAS was able to work closely with KMC to ensure scheduled desludging expenses were covered through existing sewerage or property tax, thereby ensuring no user charges were collected at the time of desludging. This initiative incentivised households to use toilets, without worrying about paying user charges to get the septic tanks emptied. 

Online monitoring systems in the form of a mobile application (Sanitrack) and radio frequency identification (RFID) were deployed to track, monitor and schedule desludging operations. To drive awareness and interest amongst students and local stakeholders, a landscaped resource centre was developed on the premises of the existing Sewage Treatment Plant.

By working with partners with a strong community connect, government relationships, technical knowledge and implementation capability, the Foundation supported Kolhapur’s efforts to move from ODF to ODF+ to ODF ++ (city level septage management plan and treatment of sanitation waste).

Over the past five years, the Foundation has provided sanitation access for 15,500+ individuals, instilled positive and healthy sanitation practices, and created a city-wide FSSM plan with KMC. With improved access to individual household toilets and facilities for regular desludging, Kolhapur will be able to achieve target 6.2 of the Sustainable Development Goals of “safely managed sanitation”. 

The Kolhapur Model is evidence of what can be achieved when plans are centered around the needs of the community. The impact created was only possible through community and government participation. Under this model, the Foundation has seen decentralised sanitation solutions work well whereas centralised sewer systems in smaller towns face challenges. Ultimately, the Foundation hopes to create access and opportunities that transform the lives of vulnerable communities from surviving to thriving.

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