Union Minister for Rural Development, Drinking Water and Sanitation Jairam Rameshs’s ‘India Dream’ to free the country – the rural populace in particular - from open defecation, seems to have faced a setback with people unwilling to use DRDO made Bio-toilets raising a stink.
After launching the bio-digesters in Odisha’s Dhamra village, close to Wheeler Island from where India test fires its all long range missiles, the Minister on June 24 even called it no less important than the Agni missiles. Today, the bio-toilets stand abandoned. The villages are reluctant to use it claiming that they lack required facilities.
The e-age toilets were formally launched at a glittering function by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) in association with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) at Dhamra in Bhadrak district.
While initially at least six bio-toilets, christened as eco-friendly loo (ELoo) were installed in five villages in Dhamra and Basudevpur areas, the DRDO had assured to install more such toilets along the 90-km Jamjhadi-Dhamra stretch. Though the DRDO claimed that these toilets were opened for public use after their successful trials in Siachen and Jammu and Kashmir, people here are not ready to buy it.
Malati Majhi, a villager from Dhamra said the toilet installed in the village lacks water supply and proper ventilation. “It does not have a window or a space for ventilation. As the inside area is inadequate, it is difficult to sit there. The toilet was used only for a couple of days after their installation. We don’t use it now for its stinking smell,” she said.
The Minister too had expressed his dissatisfaction over the lack of ventilation facilities in these toilets during the inauguration. The loos are so small and air-tight that a person feels suffocated after a few minutes. There is no system for air circulation as these are fully covered with fiber body.
The technology used to develop the bio-toilets is anaerobic processing system that treats excreta, typically with small volumes of flush water. This is usually a better process than the aerobic decomposition, which requires supply of oxygen either as compressed air or by agitation and process culminates into water and CO2.
The Bio-digester technology has been developed by Gwalior based Defence Research and Development Establishment (DRDE) and Tezpur based Defence Research Laboratory (DRL) which claimed the ELoos can effectively function in extreme conditions and temperature ranging from - 6 degree C to 50 degree C.
As per the claims of the DRDO, there is a bio-digester underneath where the temperature is maintained at 5 to 30 degree Celsius and the Psychrophile bacteria break down the waste. There is no foul smell, disease-carrying organisms or solid matter. The bio-gas is released into the air continuously and the residual liquid can be drained without any ill effect.
A local Bikartan Behera said no such degradation is done here. “Every time bad smell is coming out from the toilet making it unviable for use. People have to carry water from a faraway place to use the toilet, which is not possible always. The facilitator needs to equip the toilet with water supply,” he said.
The villagers also have blamed the DRDO for poor quality installation work near Dhamarai temple as one portion of the toilet has depressed and its fiber body disfigured. A retired defence employee N K Sahu said the bio-toilets were first tried between 1993 and 1998. However, systems failed because of foul smell, breeding of cockroaches and flies, maintenance requirement, need for daily addition of bio-enzymes.
“But now though the DRDO claims to have used the bacteria Psychrophile in the toilets, but the loos should be made user friendly with spaces for ventilation and round-the-clock water supply. Or else it would be left unused,” he said.
Local defence officials though admitted the shortcomings in these toilets, but none agreed to comment on it. They said all the problems would be sorted out soon and more toilets installed in the area to curb the habit of open defecation.