Bio-toilets, envisaged by the Indian Railways as an environment-friendly step to treat the night soil and bid adieu to the unhygienic conditions prevailing in conventional passenger coaches as well as platforms, is plagued by problems mainly due to due to public indifference and lack of awareness among railway staff.
Open discharge toilets in trains have always remained a problematic issue to the Indian Railways. Engineering, traffic and health departments are also indirectly affected with severe repercussions in the form of track corrosion and involvement of manual labour in its maintenance. But then, bio-toilets emerged as a viable solution to all the existing problems.
The first intervention was in the form of ‘Control Discharge Toilet Systems (CDTS)’, which opens up the drain outlet when the train reaches a speed of 30 kmph, in order to keep the station premises clean. As it was still messy, the railways came up with ‘Zero Discharge Toilet Systems (ZDTS)’. “The six-compartment ZDTS setup is fitted underneath the existing lavatories in which one section contains a mixture of bacteria and water. Anaerobic bacterium decomposes the human waste and converts it into water and gases. Water is chlorinated before being released,” a senior engineer told The Hindu.
Despite the promising setup, engineers lament on the lack of awareness among the cleaning staff or ‘safaiwalas’. “Once fitted, the bio-toilets can function for almost two years with little maintenance. But, the staff are not adequately trained on the new technology and they resort to their traditional cleaning methodologies with the help of disinfectants and acids, causing more damage”, they said.
In addition to this, train maintenance staff complain about apathy among the passengers, who despite the signs, dump items like diapers, plastic bags, bottles and sanitary napkins into the toilet, rendering the system ineffective.
The success of the project depends largely on the cooperation of the passengers. Without their support we cannot provide a ‘clean and hygienic journey’, says a senior railway official.
The average passenger is required to shed his/her indifference at least now and spare a thought for the maintenance workers, who have to clean up the mess at the end of the day.
Passengers dump diapers, bottles, polythene bag into the toilet, rendering the system ineffective
Without passengers’ support we cannot provide a ‘clean and hygienic journey: senior railway official