Education

A solution for a social problem

(clockwise from top left) Sarthak Acharya, Palak Yadav, Bahaar Dhingra, and Anavi Kothari.

(clockwise from top left) Sarthak Acharya, Palak Yadav, Bahaar Dhingra, and Anavi Kothari.

Though the practice of manual scavenging was made illegal decades ago, we are still trying to get rid of it. This is why the Prohibition of Employment of Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act was amended last year and mechanised sewer cleaning was made compulsory.

We learnt about the deaths of sanitation workers and how they worked in such dangerous environments through news reports. After several sessions of brainstorming with our mentor, we created “sewage squad”, a lightweight and cost-effective automated sewage cleaner. We began in March 2020, just before the lockdown was imposed. The team comprised the two of us, Bahaar Dhingra, Anavi Kothari, and Ansh Gupta; all students of Class 11.

We deliberated on our problem statement for our school’s annual Capstones project and spoke to many Safai Karamcharis and their supervisors and conducted several iterations in order to understand their needs. The final product was readied in time for Colloquium, our annual event where an external jury considered our presentation.

How it works

The prototype is like a PVC pipe that can be inserted into the sewer with an integrated user-based interface.

The prototype is like a PVC pipe that can be inserted into the sewer with an integrated user-based interface.

We built a miniature prototype and are currently working towards its industrial-grade version. The prototype appears like a PVC pipe that can be inserted into the sewer with an integrated user-based interface. This consists of a small LCD screen and a button layout for user operation. The model uses a water jet mechanism to breakdown large sewage particles, followed by metallic cutters to cut through the sludge, and finally a suction pump to suck out the sludge from the sewers. The product also includes an in-built audio-system that offers guidance in Hindi on using different mechanisms while a camera and LED light provide a visual view of target areas on the LCD screen. A gas detection system allows the user to assess the level of poisonous gases like ammonia, carbon monoxide, methane and hydrogen sulphide in the sewer. The button layout is used to operate the jet mechanism, to turn on the camera view, for the rotatory movement of cylindrically connected metallic blades and to use the suction pump during the cleaning process.

After an industrial-grade version is finalised, we look forward to seeing this solution being implemented with help from the local municipality and the Jal Board. We also plan to connect with a few NGOs to get feedback and refine the product further. Besides, learning about different facets of design thinking, the back-to-back online meetings, discussions on design and case-scenarios and building of the prototype gave us the confidence that we could contribute to solving a serious problem.

The writers are students of Shiv Nadar School


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Printable version | May 16, 2022 1:41:12 am | https://www.thehindu.com/education/a-team-of-students-is-attempting-to-see-how-technology-can-be-used-to-end-manual-scavenging/article38290411.ece