Guest post from Sanjay Banka of Banka BioLoo.
Over 600 million Indians do not have access to toilets and are forced to defecate in the open, posing health hazards, raising environmental concerns and leading to water contamination. With an average 18 million people travelling by train every day, Indian Railways is ‘our lifeline’, says Namita Banka, founder and CEO of Banka BioLoo, but its toilets were ‘in a pitiful state’.
In 2009, she began her toilet journey as a liaising agent for two toilet manufacturers supplying the Railways and developed her knowledge of the sanitation situation. An able businesswoman, she built up a reputation and bagged a US$100,000 annual toilet maintenance contract on certain East Coast Railways lines. It was her ticket to an even more promising business – with immense benefits to the society and environment, which she incorporated in 2012.
Banka BioLoo uses the bio-digester technology patented and developed by the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO), an Indian government agency, to dispose of human waste in a low-cost and low-maintenance manner. ‘We use a set of bacteria that “eat away” human waste, leaving bio-gas that can be used as fuel and effluent water that can be reused for gardening.’
The bacteria are placed in the bio-tanks that can then be fitted to new toilets or retrofitted to existing facilities, including septic tanks. ‘No replenishment of bacteria is required and very negligible sludge is formed, which makes these toilets virtually maintenance free. Bio-digester is a consortium of anaerobic bacteria, which convert the organic waste into water, methane and CO2. The anaerobic process inactivates the pathogens responsible for water-borne diseases. The household is not dependent on an external infrastructure for waste transportation and treatment. It eases the burden on the central waste treatment system such as sewage treatment plants in urban areas. The enterprise has taken a lot of initiative and effort to popularize the technology, as also takes it to the masses and the needy.
In addition to its work with Railways, Banka BioLoo is installing bio-toilets in individual houses, state schools and on-site facilities of construction and infrastructure companies. Some of the installations have been in rural areas of Andhra Pradesh, funded by an NGO, in Odisha, funded by an industry association.
The social enterprise, having pioneered the concept of bio-toilets, advocates a general shift in thinking about human waste disposal. ‘The government is spending millions of rupees on building public toilets that are not maintained because nobody wants to clean up other people’s waste.’ Along with the trains, Namita’s goal is to ‘bring a toilet to every household in India.’
These bio-toilets (or bioloos) dispose the human waste:
Believing in Sanitation for All, and going beyond the MDGs, the social enterprise is actively working on ways to bring down the costs of the bio-toilet to make them available to the vast majority of very low-income population. The mission is to provide affordable, effective and safe toilet systems.