KARUR: Sanitation is more important than independence,” said Mahatma Gandhi, whose birth anniversary was celebrated across the country on Saturday. A day earlier, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the second phase of the Swachh Bharat Mission to improve sanitation and sewage treatment in urban centres.
Despite India’s long history of words and efforts for better sanitation, the country still isn’t open-defecation free. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep striving towards the goal, say three Class 9 students in Karur.
The trio from Sri Sankara Vidyalayaa Senior Secondary School — A Rethina, SV Anu Shivani, and SS Nidhish — with help from their teacher J Rajasekaran, came up with an idea to turn old buses regarded as scrap into eco-friendly mobile bio-toilets.
What’s more, the bio-toilets would be designed such that all the waste is collected in a tank that converts it into manure. This ‘humanure’ would then be given to farmers free of cost.
“The students initially came up with the project to turn old buses into mobile toilets. Later, we decided to take it to the next level by producing manure out of the waste,” Rajasekaran says.
The teacher adds that they carried out a survey among sanitary workers in the district, and found that some are forced to clear human waste after people defecate in the open. “People relieve themselves in the open during festivals as no toilets are set up when events are conducted,” says Rethina, adding that this causes diseases.
To address this, the buses will have eight restrooms for women and men, and a specially-designed toilet with a ramp for persons with disabilities. Solar panels will be installed on the roof and a rainwater-harvesting mechanism will be put in place inside the bus to ensure the toilets are eco-friendly. The rainwater will be used in the restrooms. Besides, the bus will have advertisement spaces to generate revenue and meet maintenance costs, says Karthikeyan, the school art teacher, who helped design the model for the project.
Explaining the need for the model, Anu Shivani says, “Building toilets is not feasible as festivals are held occasionally. Also, most public toilets are not maintained well. That is one of the main reasons why many women hesitate to use public restrooms.” The student adds that the lack of restrooms in public places makes it difficult for menstruating women, and their project would be a saving grace, as the women’s restrooms would have sanitary pad dispensers and destroyers.
Nidhish says they spoke to engineers at bus-body building industries regarding the feasibility of their project. “We came to know that all old buses are discarded as scrap and not recycled. So, we went ahead with our project after we received a green signal from them.” The students also pointed out that while States such as Karnataka, Telangana, and Maharashtra have passenger buses with toilets attached, Tamil Nadu is yet to introduce such buses.
Awards the project received
- 28th National Children’s Science Congress 2020 (under ‘Science for Sustainable Living’ theme)
- Union Government’s Inspire Manak 2020
- Swachhta Saarthi fellowship 2021
- Tamil Nadu Smart Village Hackathon 2021
Farmers to benefit
The waste collected in the bio-toilets would be converted to ‘humanure’ and given to farmers free of cost. The women’s restrooms would have sanitary pad dispensers and destroyers
Solar panels will be installed on the roof and a rainwater-harvesting mechanism will be put in place inside the bus