Recently, Wockhardt Foundation installed eight bio-toilets in the Valmiki area of Bharat Nagar in Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC), with the aim of providing environmentally-friendly sanitation for the poor.
Company Chief Executive Office (CEO) and Trustee Dr Huzaifa Khorakiwala says, “Bharat Nagar has more than 1,200 homes and approximately 7,000-8,000 people. They didn’t have adequate toilet facilities and we felt they really needed bio-toilets as they are eco-friendly. More than 300 people can use these toilets every day.”
Bio-toilets are waste management systems that are 100 per cent eco-friendly and reduce the need for expensive waste management solutions. Dr Khorakiwala explains, “The bio-toilet looks like a regular toilet, but the difference is in its system. Regular toilets usually have a septic tank, which collects the waste, which is disposed of through a pipe into the sea.
In bio-toilets, instead of a septic tank there are bio-digesters, which can hold 8,000 litres of human waste. One third of the bio-digester tank is filled with bacteria, which break the waste down into bio-gas and water.” The bio-toilet programme head at Wockhardt, Naveed Pasha adds, “These toilets cost around Rs 8 lakh each, and installation takes about one week. The bio-toilets are made of plastic material and filled with anaerobic bacteria. These bacteria can survive for 50 years.”
Rubina Sheikh, who lives in Bharat Nagar, says, “We have been living here since we were born and we never had a public toilet facility. We always used to go in the open, as the closest public toilet is a 15-minute walk from our home. Once, we came together and installed a toilet, but it became defunct,” Along with Sheikh, Bharti Galipeli has also been living with inadequate sanitation for 20 years. She says, “It is not easy for women to go and do their business in the open. Everyone from our area goes to the same spot, near the Mumbai University wall, and we are worried that our kids may fall sick because of the unhygienic conditions.”
The cost of bio-toilets primarily depends on the material of the toilet and the tank structure. Bio-digester bacteria can cost up to Rs 3,000 for one unit. Hyderabad-based Banka BioLoo, constructs, installs and maintains bio-toilets, has installed bio-toilets in and around Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Karnataka. Now moving towards West India, Banka BioLoo is planning to install around 1,200 bio-digesters, part of the bio-toilets, in Sangli, Maharashtra, after a trial run to be held in Pune.
Founder and CEO of Banka BioLoo Namita Banka feels that bio-toilets are the best low-cost, hygienic sanitation option available in India. She says, “Having explored a lot, we didn’t come across any cheaper alternative to the bio-toilet system. Based on extensive research, we understand that there are no international technologies with a comparable bio-digester mechanism.
We are familiar with companies in Africa, which collect the human waste and turn it into pellets for producing energy. In a holistic approach, bio-toilets are very cost-effective. The fecal matter is treated at its source; the household is not dependent on an external infrastructure for waste transportation and treatment. It eases the burden on the central waste treatment system, such as sewage treatment plants in urban areas.”
In order to provide affordable, effective and safe toilet systems, awareness is necessary, but, Banka says, a vast majority of citizens are unaware of such a technology. She says, “Public or community toilets get shunned because they are unclean and unhygienic. Secondly, leaders, NGOs or philanthropists often wish to cover a larger population through a few systems. They seek to deploy community toilets near densely populated areas. We are strong votaries of one toilet per household. This will ensure proper sanitation for the entire family, especially the women, the elderly and children.”
Benefits of a bio-toilet
>> Hygienic human waste disposal mechanism in areas with no infrastructure
>> Don’t require sewage connectivity to the main line
>> No external energy requirement
>> Good quality effluent (pathogen-free) water that can be used for gardening/ agriculture.
>> Subsequent to secondary treatment, the water can be used for some household purposes such as washing and farming
>> Bio-methane can be used as fuel for stoves.
What are bio-toilets?
The bio-toilet (or bioloo) helps treat human waste using bacterial culture, which eliminates the need for waste disposal. The toilet is 100 per cent eco-friendly, saves energy, conserves water and produces bio-gas. A bio-digester is a consortium of anaerobic bacteria, which convert the organic waste into water, methane and CO2. The anaerobic process inactivates the pathogens responsible for water-borne diseases. The gases don’t harm the environment in any manner, and the effluent water is good for gardening and similar purposes.