Toilet training

By Bharat Lal Seth
Published: Tuesday 15 September 2009

Toilet training

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A college opens a chapter in ecological sanitation

A bunch of students at the exhibition hall of Adarsh College of Arts and Commerce are talking spiritedly. It is not about friends, fights or movies. It is about toilets. The new toilet complex in the college is generating a lot of interest. "It doesn't stink. It is a new place of refuge for us when we are bunking lectures," said a student, chuckling.

But there is more to the toilet than its being odourless. The exhibition at the college in Badlapur, a town in Thane district of Maharashtra, showcases how the toilet wastes minimal water and generates no waste water for the municipality to treat or dump into a river or the sea (see 'Loo and behold', Down To Earth, May 16-31, 2009).

How this facility was built is a story that goes back to 2007 to a hotel in Mumbai.That year the Indian Water Works Association, a voluntary body of professionals, invited municipal representatives from across the state to a conference at the hotel. The purpose was to explain to them the nuances of ecological sanitation. Unlike most other representatives, the president of the Kulgaon Badlapur Municipal Corporation, Ram Patkar, decided then and there to try out the concept. The corporation consulted the Ecosan Foundation in Pune that provides eco-friendly toilets.

The college board agreed to provide land on its campus for the pilot toilet. The same year the chair of the foundation, D B Panse, along with consultants from gtz, a German technical consultancy, finalized the design of the toilet complex. Patkar got municipal engineers on the job soon after.

By September 2008 the facility, including the exhibition hall, was ready after spending Rs 35 lakh. The municipality raised Rs 10 lakh, while the rest came as a grant from the environmental society of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority.

Waterless urinals were installed in the boys' toilet. The technology is simple and cost-effective, said municipal engineers. "We attached a membrane costing Rs 130 a piece to each urinal," said Kiran Gavale, municipal engineer in-charge of the project. The membrane closes when the flow of urine stops, thus acting as a smell trap.

Once in the evening a person operates the wheel valve in the corner and 200 litres of water is released to flush the urine to a tank. The urine is used on the campus as liquid fertilizer after a gestation period of four to six weeks. The surplus is given to farmers free of cost.

Toilet pans have steep slopes and water is poured manually. Two litres of water is sufficient for flushing; conventional toilets required 10 litres per flush. The faecal matter is channelled to a biogas settler. The engineers expect it to produce 6.8 cubic metre of gas--equivalent to four litres of diesel--in a day. The biogas will soon be used to power a gas lamp and the canteen stove, said Gavale. The system, he added, captures 97 per cent of the biogas for reuse, therefore, minimal methane (a greenhouse gas) is released into the atmosphere. The waste water from the biogas settler is channelled through a treatment system. The treated water is used to water the playground and gardens.

The college is saving seven tankerloads of water every month. This shaves off Rs 2,000 on its monthly water bill. About 2,600 students use the toilet.

The municipal corporation has replicated the facility at four other sites in Badlapur and more such toilets are in the pipeline, informed the president of the corporation.

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