Chennai

Where old buses turn into swanky toilets

Old BEST buses turned into toilets

Old BEST buses turned into toilets  

Chennai can probably take some inspiration from this sustainability initiative where old public transport buses are refurbished and turned into a multi-purpose facility that combines a cafe, laundry space, a hair saloon and a toilet.

Inspired by a project initiated by the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC), four other cities have started putting their discarded buses to good use.

In 2016, when Pune was put on the smart cities project list, PMC invited ideas from citizens on how to make the city more residents-friendly.

Saraplast Private Limited, a company that makes portable and mobile toilets, suggested that old, dysfunctional BEST buses be transformed into toilets for women. The idea had been inspired by a model followed in San Francisco.

“These were 13 to 15 year old buses with no engine, gathering dust at the garage. Sending them to scarp isn’t profitable and recycling could be expensive. We refurbished it completely to give it an all new look, and it’s not just a toilet,” says Ulka Sadalkar, co-founder, Saraplast.

They called the project TI, which expands to Toilet Integration (Ti) and also translates into ‘she’ in Marathi. The first project was a simple wash room, but in the subsequent ones they added more features to make it profitable. Of the 12 old buses turned into Ti centres, some have a cafe, laundry space and hair saloon. It is partitioned with one western and three Indian toilets. They also come with WiFi connectivity and other amenities one generally looks for in a wash room like disposable sanitary vending machine, diaper changing station and water dispenser.

“Our idea was to not make it boring as well as change the perception that public toilets are dirty; and so we had to be creative. An attendant is in-charge of maintaining the Ti centre, so adding additional features ensured more footfalls and also gave her a decent income,” says Ulka.

Today, an average of 100-150 people use the Ti centres. “The café and advertisements have ensured there is some revenue in keeping these buses engaging,”says Ulka. A fee of ₹ 5 is charged per usage from public.

Ulka says constructing the brick and motors toilet take longer time, requires a lot of permissions to be taken and is also costly. “The cost of doing up an entire bus and making it run is around ₹10-13 lakhs, and it takes around a month to do-it-up,” Ulka says. The company has been taking up these projects with some CSR funding. The toilets are not really mobile and sometimes need to be towed to a venue where there is a huge gathering of women.

Ulka says to see this model really make profit one has to try it for a longer period. They have a five-year MOU with PMC, which monitors these centres on and off. “We have bagged work with government departments in Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Nagpur and Mumbai,” she says.

In Bengaluru, Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation is planning to convert its old fleet into toilet cum library and also into a skill development centre. Bangalore International Airport has come forward to support the initiative under its CSR initiative. “In Bengaluru, we are only refurbishing the buses and giving it to the agencies,” says Ulka. In Hyderabad, the project would also have health centres where women can opt for consultation and check-up among others.

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Printable version | Mar 29, 2020 6:32:47 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/where-old-buses-turn-into-swanky-toilets/article30712061.ece

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