Indian Railways' experimentation with eco-friendly toilets
If you happen to travel in Rewa Express, you will notice a slight change in its coaches small steel tanks fitted between the wheels. These are part of environment-friendly toilets, where the excreta is treated and stored. Coaches in Rewa Express, running between Delhi and Rewa in Madhya Pradesh, are being equipped with biological treatment facility. Unlike a normal toilet, in the bio-toilet only the water trickles down the track, while the sludge is retained in the tank.
Bio-toilets are part of an experiment to try out different types of eco-friendly toilets in trains. The Indian Railways plans to install eco-friendly toilets in all its 9,000 trains by 2011-13. And it is about time the railways changed tracks from open to 'biological' toilets, for an estimated two million passengers use its toilets daily, wasting a huge amount of water and creating hygiene problems.Presenting the Railways Budget, union minister Lalu Prasad Yadav announced a provision of Rs 4,000 crore for "discharge-free green toilets" in all 36,000 coaches in the eleventh plan period.
It is a tough challenge and the railways' previous experiments with eco-friendly toilets have not always been successful. Nonetheless, a beginning has been made. The bio-toilet developed by the railways' Research Designs and Standards Organisation with Microphor of the us and Faridabad-based Aikon Technology, was first tested in the Delhi-Allahabad Prayagraj Express. In this system the excreta is collected in a tank, which is divided into two chambers. The first chamber contains a patented bacterial culture that breaks down waste in six-seven days by enzyme action. The resulting liquid is led into the second section where it is treated with chlorine before disposal.
This toilet uses less than 5 litres of water per flush against uncontrolled use of water in open toilets. In a year, about a kg of waste will be collected in the tank, which will be cleared manually. Though it will save water, the bio-toilet comes at a price. For every coach, the railways will have to shell out Rs 8 lakh as equipment cost and Rs 1.5-2 lakh as operations cost per year.
|Functioning of bio-toilets|
|Target is to install 'discharge-free' toilets in all coaches by 2011-13|
|Right turn Compared to open toilets (left), zero-discharge (centre) and bio-toilets will not discharge excreta on the tracks|
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