If there is a will, there is a way. That is what a tiny non-governmental organisation, which has its office atop a public toilet in a Mumbai suburb, has proved it by winning the 2007 Urban-Age Award. The Triratana Prerana Mandal (TPM) at the Milan shantytown shared the $100,000 (about Rs 40 lakh) award with the high-profile Mumbai Waterfronts Development Centre.
The awards, instituted by the Deutsche Bank, was declared and presented to the institutions in the presence of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Maharashtra Governor S M Krishna in Mumbai on Thursday.
Delivering the keynote address in German, Merkel said urbanization had brought in problems along with all the success it made.
"All cities face problems. But different cities have different troubles. Berlin, which has only one-fifth of Mumbai's population, faces difficult problems like dealing with immigrants. Language was a big issue."
Describing Mumbai as one of the most-vibrant cities in the world, Merkel said one in every three urban dwellers lives in a slum and conditions could only be improved through a combined effort by government, business and communities.
"The more we share details about our cities, the more we learn," she said. Merkel, who is on a four-day visit to India, rated her tour as highly successful.
"The journey in India has given a thrust for relations between Germany and India. India is a country of enormous opportunities," the center-right Chancelleor said.
The TPP, established in 2002, works closely with the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation and other agencies in making Mumbai's life better. Besides building and maintaining toilets, the tiny unit also plants trees and deals with the waste management.
In fact, it is an NGO run by the poor and for the poor.
But it's rich in ideas and innovations. Says TPM's founder-leader Dayanand Jadhav, "This began in Santacruz. We would like it to be a model for Mumbai and the rest of the world."
The Waterfront, meanwhile, has been focusing on open spaces, especially on the seaside. A brainchild of citizens in Bandra, the NGO works for hawker-free promenades and unhindered walkways on the seaside.
A special award has also been given to the Urban Design Research Institute's Fort Management Project.
Merkel may have hit the spotlight at the award ceremony at Mumbai University's convocation hall, but it was the tiny NGO that operates from a toilet roof that trickled down the message of urban living.