DRDO licensing eco-toilets to private companies

Dhamra: Commercialising the use of indigenously-built Bio-Digester technology which turns human waste into biogas and odourless compost, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is now licensing private companies to build eco-toilets all over the country.

"As part of a FICCI interface programme, we are commercializing the technology so that bio-toilets can reach every nook and corner of the country. It is a unique technology not available anywhere else in the world," Dr W Selvamurthy, Chief Controller at DRDO, told PTI here. The DRDO have already transferred it to 49 private firms to build the eco-friendly toilets, named `E-LOO`, all over the country according to the market demand, he said.

According to India Human Development Report 2011, brought out by Institute of Applied Manpower Research of the Planning Commission, about half of Indian households lacked access to sanitation facilities in 2008-09 resulting in outbreak of diseases like diarrhoea, cholera and typhoid. To prevent open defecation along the Dhamra coast, DRDO have taken up a project of installing 1000 bio-toilets, which was inaugurated today by Union Minister for Rural Development Jairam Ramesh.

Customised to the use of civilians, bio-digester technology was developed at the DRDO lab in Gwalior to decompose biological waste generated by soldiers deployed in high-altitude regions such as Siachen and Ladakh. The process involves the bacteria that feed on fecal matter inside the tank, through anaerobic process which degrades the matter and releases methane gas and water. The generated gas can be utilized for energy, cooking and water for irrigation purposes.

"Only we can give them the bacteria which is stored and cultivated in our bacteria bank in Gwalior. We will ensure that the toilets are sold in the free market and fair competition is there between these companies," Dr V K Saraswat, scientific adviser to the Defence Minsiter, said. Since the toilets have tremendous scope in rural areas and low-cost housing societies, they have also decided to include the technology during the implementation of PURA (Providing Urban amenities to Rural People) project.

"We are seeing PURA as a vehicle to let this technology penetrate deep into rural areas," he said adding that they want to involve NGOs also to spread education and awareness on the importance of using toilets. For a household, the cost of such bio-toilets will be Rs 15,000 including the bio-tank. In Lakshwadeep, 1200 such toilets were installed while around 500 coaches of six trains are using this facility. Besides this, the DRDO is developing around 30-35 technologies that can transferred to the industry for public welfare activities, Saraswat said.