Come 2019, and train travel will become so much more eco-friendly. By that time, the Railway Board hopes to complete installation of bio-toilets in all 40,000-plus coaches of the Indian Railways. The benefits, it is felt, will be many. Corrosion of railway tracks will be reduced; the stations will remain clean; it wills save water and the on-board facility will be odourless. Capping it all, the whole scheme will fit into the government’s national scavenging policy discouraging use of human beings to clear the muck.
“We’ve already installed about 500 such toilets, mostly in existing coaches, after running a pilot project for two years in two trains and we hope to install 3,000 more in the current fiscal”, Arunendra Kumar, Member (Mechanical), Railway Board, told Business Line. “All the new coaches coming out of IR coach factories at Kapurthala and Perambur will be fitted with bio-toilets”.
But then, the job is not so easy. First, the cost, is prohibitive. Installing bio-toilets in each coach costs around Rs 3.5 lakh, and each will have four such toilets. Next, for new LHB coaches, the toilets have to be redesigned.
Coaching, major issue
Finally, fitting the new toilets in an existing coach is proving difficult because the coach has to be taken out of operation, thus creating the shortage of seats available for travel.
Interestingly, the design and technology being used in the bio-toilets are entirely indigenous. “The bacteria being put into six chambers will eat up everything”, he said adding, “The Defence Research & Development Organisation, Gwalior, is helping us a lot in this matter”.
However, a major challenge facing the Railways is teaching passengers how to use the new toilets properly. At present, the passengers are used to treating a train toilet as a dustbin throwing napkins, bottles and various other things.
Such exercises will be prohibited in the bio-toilets. Use of highly acidic and alkaline cleaning agents will also be a no-no.
(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated June 16, 2013)