Sunday, June 24, 2012

Bacteria from Antarctica aids the setting up of bio-toilets in India

KOLKATA: It is invisible to the naked eye and originated in the uninhabitable climes of Antarctica. This humble bacteria — known as Psychrophile — holds the potential to solve India's sanitation problem in the years to come. The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is using these bacteria for the bio-digester technology it developed for disposal of human waste in an eco-friendly manner. DRDO has already tied up with the Indian Railways for bio-toilets on trains. On Sunday, the technology will be inaugurated on Sunday at Dhamra in Odisha in the presence of Jairam Ramesh, Union minister of rural development, drinking water and sanitation.?It was Ramesh's caustic remark in May that got the DRDO involved in installing the odourless bio-toilets that it had developed in rural areas. The minister had rued the fact that while India is capable of launching inter continental ballistic missiles like Agni and satellites, women still don't have access to proper sanitation. According to him, 60% of women in the country do not have access to toilets. Immediately after this, DRDO took it upon itself to take up rural sanitation as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility. The location chosen was Dhamra, which is close to the spot from where the Agni-V missile was successfully test-fired recently. The toilets developed by DRDO were originally meant for harsh climates. They can function at temperatures ranging from -55 degree Celsius to 60 degree Celsius. DRDO scientists brought the bacteria from Antarctica and started to develop them to suit Indian standards. This bacteria breaks down human waste and produces colourless and odourless inflammable bio gas that comprises 50-70% methane. "There is a bio-digester underneath where the temperature is maintained at 5-30 degree Celsius. The bacteria break down the waste. There is no foul smell, disease-carrying organisms or solid matter. Nearly 90% of the solid waste is reduced. The bio-gas is released into the air continuously and can be used for cooking and heating. The residual liquid can be drained without any ill-effect," a scientist said. The Army has already set up these toilets in Siachen and other high-altitude regions and also in bases in the desert . The plan is to cover at least 1,000 Gram Panchayats across the country with this technology soon. The toilets are extremely easy to set up and scientists assure that the bacteria will be soon available in packets and pouches. By the end of this year, at least some of some trains in the country will have the bio-degradable toilets on a pilot basis.

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