India’s premier military research body Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) feels that modern technology can play a very important role in achieving a clean India and provide a major fillip to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s nationwide sanitation initiative—Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. It reckons that its bio-toilets would bring about “a revolution” in rural areas and motivate people to keep their homes and surroundings clean. The sanitation drive looks at providing a toilet to each household both in rural and urban areas in order to have a clean India by 2019.
The Bio-digester technology has been developed by Gwalior-based Defence Research and Development Establishment (DRDE) and Tezpur based Defence Research Laboratory (DRL), with an objective for resolving the problems of un-decomposed human waste. The innovation degrades and converts the human waste into usable water and gasses in an eco-friendly manner. The generated gas can be utilised for energy/cooking and water for irrigation purposes. The process involves the bacteria which feed upon the faecal matter inside the tank, through anaerobic process which finally degrades the matter and releases methane gas that can be used for cooking, along with the treated water.
UK-based NRI industrialist Lord Swaraj Paul’s Caparo Group has joined hands with DRDO to install environment-friendly Bio-digester toilets across India. The toilets cost only R15,000 each and are cheaper if built for clusters. It was in 2012 that DRDO had launched Bio-digester, christened as bio-toilets from Dhamra near the Wheeler Island test facility from where it used to test launch long-range missiles like Agni and AAD interceptors.
Today, Sikkim is the only state where all citizens have access to toilets, followed by Kerala to be the second state in the country to provide toilets to all. The Bio-digester, named as ELOO (eco-friendly loo) is the Indian solution to the global problem. DRDO officials claim that it is the perfect alternative to the current ‘Flush and Forget’ toilets. It is expected that bio-toilets can save billions of dollars for any government in waste management and to ensure good health for all.
The Bio-digester technology was used to decompose biological waste generated by soldiers deployed in high-altitude regions such as Siachen and Ladakh. The ELOOs can effectively function in extreme conditions and temperature ranging from -6 degree centigrade to 50 degree centigrade.
To suit different geographical requirements, DRDO has also made various design modifications in the Bio-digester toilets. For example, to avoid choking of toilets in Indian Railways because of people throwing non-biodegradable plastics, like bottles, a special lid has been constructed. On pushing the flush, the flap opens and the bottles fall on the track. The excreta enters through a separate opening into the digester tank.
The Bio-digester tank has several chambers to provide more surface area to hasten bio-degradation. The chambers increase retention time of the waste in places where water table is high, like in Lakshwadeep or homes and offices where people flush frequently. In glaciers where the temperature is as low as minus 40 degree centigrade, the toilet is fitted with solar panels of 240 watt to keep the excreta warm for processing.
Design changes are also being worked for toilets in houseboats in Srinagar to avoid water contamination.
DRDO chief and scientific advisor to defence minister VK Saraswat said national security and country’s prosperity goes hand in hand and DRDO will do its best in both fronts, as both are equally important. “The launch of bio-digester is important than the launch of Agni. DRDO is engaged in identifying relevant technologies and adapt to solve the problems faced by ‘Aam Admi’ through innovation,” he said.
The Bio-digester technology is an innovative and cost effective solution for a mega problem of water pollution and health hazard due to open defecation. The benefit of this technology can bring a major change in the quality of life and help to lead a healthy life across the world. The government has requisitioned 12,000 units for 10 islands in Lakshwadeep and the Railways 10,000 units for trains to make the tracks clean.
Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB), the body which has to provide toilets to slum dwellers in all clusters in the city, has procured
10-seater mobile toilet vans with DRDO developed Bio-digester technology on public-private partnership (PPP) mode at 67 identified locations. The technology is both eco-friendly, odour-free and water-saving.