In its commitment to provide hygienic environment to passengers, Indian Railways at present is running 1400 coaches with 3800 bio-toilets in various trains. In the first four months of the current year, Indian Railways have fitted more bio-toilets on coaches than the entire number of bio-toilets fitted in the past three years. In the first four months of the current financial year i.e. from April’13 to July’13 the number of bio-toilets fitted in passenger coaches were 2285 in comparison to 1337 bio-toilets fitted in 2012-13, 169 in 2011-12 and 57 in the year 2010-11.
The first train, Gwalior-Varanasi Bundelkhand Express, fitted with bio-toilets is running since January 2011. After receiving encouraging feedback from the users and railway maintenance staff, the pace of fitment of these bio-toilets in Indian Railways passenger coaches has been ramped up. In its endeavour to take all necessary steps to keep station premises clean, Indian Railways is now manufacturing all new conventional passenger coaches fitted with bio-toilets.
These bio-toilets are fitted below the coach floor underneath the lavatories and the human waste discharged into them is acted upon by a colony of anaerobic bacteria that convert human waste mainly into water and small amount of gases (methane and CO2). The gases escape into atmosphere and waste is discharged after chlorination onto the track. Human waste thus does not fall on the railway track. This is environmentally friendly and also improves the working condition for the railway track staff.
Indian Railways seek cooperation of their valued customers for success of this project as throwing of items like plastic bottles, paper cups, cloth rags, sanitary napkin, nappies, plastic/poly bags, ‘Gutka’ pouches etc causes choking of these toilets and makes the toilet non functional. Passengers’ cooperation is of paramount importance for the success of these bio-toilets.
This environment friendly, low cost and robust technology has been developed jointly by Indian Railways and Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) for railway passenger coaches and is the first of its kind in Railway Systems in the world. One particular type of bacteria which is used in this design of bio-toilet has been carefully collected and analysed by DRDO from Antarctica and the efficiency of this system has been tested by DRDO in extreme climates and conditions like those at Siachen Glacier. The anaerobic bacteria in the bio-designer not only survive extreme cold and heat but also survives when subjected to commonly available disinfectants.
The fitment of such bio-toilets in coaches is, however, technologically very challenging because it requires special technique of wielding to ensure that safety of the coach is not compromised in any way.