The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) on Sunday launched its much-hyped Bio-digester, christened as bio-toilets from Dhamara near the Wheeler Island test facility from where it used to test launch long-range missiles like Agni and AAD interceptors.
Union Minister of State for Statistics and Programme Implementation and Chemicals and Fertilizers Srikanta Jena and Minister for Rural Development, Drinking Water and Sanitation Jairam Ramesh jointly inaugurated the pilot project developed by the DRDO.
Appreciating the efforts of DRDO, Ramesh said the bio-toilets are no less important than the Agni missile as providing proper sanitation to the people of the country is the biggest challenge now.
“Over 60 percent people in India still prefer open defecation due to non-availability of toilets. While out of 2.40 lakh Gram Panchayats only 10 percent GPs are declared as Nirmal Panchayats, the figure is dismal in Odisha where only 280 GPs are announced as Nirmal Panchayats out of 6300,” he said.
Other states, which feature in the list that lack adequate sanitation facilities, include Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh. “Even countries like Bangladesh, Pakistahn, Nepal, Bhutan and Afghanistan are above us as far as sanitation is concerned. There will be Agni in our house if we do not have toilets. It is easy to develop Agni but not make people use toilets. We may have missiles like Agni, but we are not safe until we are healthy and clean,” Ramesh said in a lighter note.
The union minister said Sikkim is the only state where all citizens have access to toilets. “Kerala will soon be the second one in the country and we aim to make all the GPs in the country Nirmal Panchayats within next 10 years under the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan scheme. Earlier we were providing Rs 3500 to each BPL family to set up toilets. Now it has been enhanced to Rs 10,000 to each family irrespective of their economic background. Besides, we have decided to hold the panchayats responsible if people fail to install toilets within a fixed deadline,” he added besides suggesting the DRDO to rename the project ‘Bapu’ after Mahatma Gandhi’s nickname.
Next week, the Rural Development ministry will sign a MoU with the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to produce eco-friendly toilets. Initially, the DRDO has decided to set up the bio-toilets in 1000 GPs across the country and the RD ministry would spend nearly Rs 400 Cr for the purpose.
Earlier the DRDO and Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) had entered into a MoU for DRDO-FICCI Accelerated Technology Assessment and Commercialisation (ATAC) programme, which aims at commercialising the cutting edge technologies developed by DRDO for civilian applications. The toilets cost only Rs 15,000 each and is cheaper if built for clusters.
The Bio-digester, named as ELOO (eco-friendly loo) is the Indian solution to the global problem. 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 has been developed by Gwalior based Defence Research and Development Establishment (DRDE) and Tezpur based Defence Research Laboratory (DRL. The 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 C to 50 degree C.
The innovation degrades and converts the human waste into usable water and gasses in an eco-friendly manner. The generated gas can be utilized for energy/cooking and water for irrigation purposes. The process involves the bacteria, which feed upon the fecal 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.
Speaking on the occasion Jena suggested for initiating a model development programme (MDP) of bio-digester toilets in the entire north east region of Odisha under the pilot project to cater to the needs of people in the districts like Balasore, Bhadrak, Jajpur, Keonjhar and Mayurbhanj which can be replicated in other regions of the country.
DRDO chief and Scientific Advisor to Defence Minister V K 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. “DRDO is engaged in identifying relevant technologies and adapt to solve the problems faced by ‘Aam Admi’ through innovation,” he told.
Highlighting the technical aspects, Chief Controller for Life Sciences and International Cooperation at DRDO W Selvamurthy stated 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,” he added.
Ramesh later visited the Wheeler Island, a test facility of Integrated Test Range (ITR) and interacted with the scientists before returning back to Trivandrum in the evening.