Friday, September 15, 2017

Toilet-a love story for Nalanda engineer Sanjeev Kumar

by Pradeep Modak
PATNA: He is popularly known as “Mushroom Man of Bihar” for his commendable work to spread the technique of mushroom cultivation across the state. He has trained more than 10000 people mostly village women belonging to the downtrodden section of the society on the process of cultivation of the highly mineral and protein-rich vegetable in small space and earn profit from it.

Now, Sanjeev Kumar (52), a BTech grad from BIT, Sindri and the founder member of Systematic Agro-Based Research Institute (SABRI) located in Nalanda-the home district of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, shifts his attention to community health, hygiene, cleanliness and enclosed long-term composting for Bihar villages with his two innovative ideas-one is Compostra model of toilet and the other is waterless odour free urinal.

Sanjeev feels that the project based on enclosed long-term composting (ELTC) will help Bihar villages make open defecation free by installing a community sanitation complex and educating residents on the benefits of improved sanitation and hygiene practices. Further it will also provide “humanure “ to use as natural compost in vegetable or cereal crops cultivation minimizing the need of chemical fertilizers, he remarks.

He says water is a scarce resource and it must be used judiciously. “Over exploitation and irrational use water have already projected a grim picture globally on water availability and quality”, he says.

“In the race of open defecation elimination programme especially in developing countries, several types of toilet models like leach pit and septic tank toilets have been experimented but most of them need huge quantity of water to maintain its cleanliness”, he says.

“To some extent the present models performed fairly in promoting improved sanitation but most of these toilets cannot be considered as sustainable and are not capable of addressing the sanitation problems in future because of several limitations”, he observes.

"In a country like India, where availability of safe drinking water to every human is a challenge, we cannot risk flushing of feces by 10-15liters per flush of drinking water”, he says.

“For an average of five-member family, the minimum water required to flush out 250 liters of feces is 75000 liters annually. Similarly, a five-member family needs 40000 liters of water to flush out the urine in year.  Together this makes a whooping sum and we need to save the water and the earth”, he points out.

He points out that contamination of underground water and soil is a major issue in the leach pit toilets, which are being constructed across the country especially in villages under Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and similarly the disposal of fecal sludge is a major concern in septic tank toilets as India does not have proper regulation or mechanism for safe disposal of fecal sludge.

He says existing toilet models also fail to contribute in maintaining the ecological cycle of universe putting the human survival at risk.

He, however, claims the Compostera model of toilet and urinal easily qualify and answer the burgeoning need of sanitation problem in the country.

Sanjeev, under his banner SABRI, has constructed five Compostera model toilets in three districts of Bihar, beginning with his home district Nalanda.
Among the other four, two each Compostera model community toilets are functioning in Patna and Vaishali districts.

Compostera toilet is based on enclosed long-term composting (ELTC) theory. Construction of Compostera toilet had started in 1939 when a big one side sloped toilet tank containing waste vegetable at one end and collection tank at the other for preparing compost was made for agriculture use.

In 1960s, Sweden had started commercial production of this type of tanks that were used in Sweden and in some other European countries. US adopted the technique in 1970 and since then a lot of new techniques were applied on it to make it environment friendly. The present model Compostera AB model was developed in 2007.

Two functions have been installed in the new tank to keep it odour free and seed up composting process. A worm called Asenia Fatida which eats human fecal fast and convert it into compost is added into the tank. A power ventilation system is also installed in the tank to start aerobic process  by which worms keep alive in the tank and tank remains odour free.

Sanjeev says the Compostera tank has seven distinct advantages comparing to other models.

Eco-friendly: the toilet does not contaminate the soil and ground water in any circumstances. The laboratory test of fertila (the main “humanure” product from the facility is a liquid locally named fertila) has proved that the fertila is an organic fertliser/soil conditioner and can improve the health of soil when added to fields for agriculture.

Productive: The Compostera model of toilet is based on the principle of maintaining ecological balances by returning the plant nutrient back to soil and closing the loop. The fertila collected after conversion of fecal sludge can be directly used in the agricultural land for production of vegetables and crops.

Waterless: Over exploitation of water can be minimized by the use of Compostera model of toilets as one or two liters of water per person is sufficient for ablution and cleaning.

Suitable for flood prone as well as dry and rocky areas: Bihar and Jharkhand are dynamic states where some regions are normally submerged under flood water while the other parts face dryness. In both the situations the Compostera model of toilet is a right option because the chambers of the toilet is constructed above the ground and are sealed. Hence there is no problem due to increased water level during rainy season or flood.

Sustainability: The proposed model of toilet strongly addresses the issue of sustainability of facility. Since there is negligible cost involved in operation and maintenance and also the fecal matter gets converted into fertila just immediately there is no issue of pit emptying or wreckage of pits. On an average a well-designed pit of Compostera toilet can last more than 50 years.

Less space requirement: The availability of space is one of the major hurdles in construction of a toilet especially where the below poverty line (BPL) people reside. The space required for the construction of some existing toilet models like speptic tank calls for a minimum of 1.255 cubic metre for a family of five members. Normally the land does not become feasible in all the cases. But the Compostera model requires only 0.75 cubic metre of land.

Operation and maintenance: The Compostera model of toilet does not require high-end maintenance. One of the basic reasons behind this is the immediate conversion of human fecces ino fertlia and not giving the scope of feces accumulation and then cleaning after a few years. Also because of better technical design there is no need of daily cleaning and maintenance of facilities. The science and advance technology behind this model keeps the facilities clean and well maintained per se. For example the existing exhaust fan in the toilet keeps the bad smell out and does not require any cleansing reagent for freshness.

The Compostera model community toilet which was first introduced at Mohaddipur village in Nalanda district of Bihar in  2013 under the aegis of SABRI, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Institute (WASHi) India and Swedish International Development Corporation (Sida) supporting the needs of 21 households all of them belonging to weaker section of the society and also empowering women and girls by promoting menstruation hygiene management (MHM) and giving them safer, more private sanitation and hygiene options. 

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