Bio-toilets in trains to prevent track corrosion

With the twin objectives of preventing corrosion of tracks and providing odourless toilets to passengers, railways are replacing existing ones with bio-toilets.

"While some green toilets designed by DRDO are already being manufactured and fitted in coaches, we are committed to manufacture 25,00 bio-toilets in the current fiscal," said a senior Railway Ministry official.

The problem of environmental degradation and corrosion of tracks due to night soil has been engaging the attention of railways for a long time. Rail corrosion costs railways more than Rs 350 crore every year.

"Our aim is to replace the existing toilets with bio-toilets in all long distance trains," the official said.

About the target, the official said the complete switch over to bio-toilets in new coaches will be carried out by 2016-17 while the total elimination of direct discharge toilet system in all passenger coaches will be done by 2021-22, the end of 13th Five-Year Plan.

The Kakodkar committee on railway safety and Pitroda committee on railway modernisation had strongly recommended in their reports for replacing the conventional open-discharge toilets with green toilets with a view to having cleaner, hygienic and safer railway ecosystem.

The reports said that human waste from open-discharge toilets used by passengers is damaging tracks and associated infrastructure. Both the panels recommended that toilets with nil or harmless discharge be installed within the next five years in all 43,000 carriages used by the Railways.

"Apart from the issue of hygiene, this has several serious safety implications arising out of corrosion of rails and related hardware as well as poor maintenance of under carriage equipment due to inhuman unhygienic conditions," the Kakodkar Committee report said.
Waste is dumped directly on to the tracks because of the existing toilet system in trains. Many passengers ignore requests to not use toilets when trains halt. Apart from the unbearable stench it creates, the practice leads to clogging of rail lines at busy stations.

The safety committee recommends that toilets either with no discharge or with harmless discharge are introduced in all 43,000 coaches within next five years otherwise Indian Railways may continue to face acute problem of the rail track corrosion especially in suburban areas and refusal by the railwaymen in maintenance of track and coaches.
Bio-toilets are already operational in some coaches as part of a pilot project. "Some modifications are being made during the trial and now the new technology will be extended to as many trains," said the official.

The anaerobic bacteria inside the toilets consume waste material and convert it into water and gas in the bio-toilet system. The water passing through chlorine tank is discharged as clean water and the gas generated evaporates into the atmosphere.
Besides DRDO designed bio-toilets trials for vacuum toilets are also being planned in a few premier trains.

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