Indian Railways has traveled many miles of tracks since its introduction in 1853. However, anyone who has traveled on Indian trains is fully aware that the facilities on board are lacking in more ways than one. Unhygienic toilets reeking of human excreta have left many a traveler with an unpleasant experience, and have been an environmental burden as well. But things are starting to change for the better. Indian rails will soon boast eco-friendly toilets, thanks to an initiative from the Honorable Minister of Railways Laloo Prasad Yadav.
The installation of eco-friendly toilets was announced by the Railway Minister during the presentation of the 2008-09 Indian Railway budget in the Parliament. There are two different technologies that will begin implementation with a testing phase. The first one was developed by the railway’s Research Designs and Standards Organization in Lucknow, with Microphor of the US and Faridadbad-based Aikon Technology. This system collects excreta into a tank, which is divided into 2 chambers. The waste is broken down in the first chamber within 6-7 days by enzymes produced by a patented bacterial culture. The leftover liquid from the first chamber flows into the secondary chamber where it is treated with chlorine before disposal. So far, eighty of these prototype bio-toilets were procured and installed on Prayagraj express and AP Express.
The other test toilet has been developed by a group of scientists at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur. These eco-toilets were developed under the Technology Mission on Railway Safety, and are based on chemical treatment. They are “zero-discharge” toilets that separate the solid and liquid part of the human waste. The solid part is collected in a container, and liquid waste is recycled and used for flushing. The system thus avoids depositing the human waste on the rails. This prototype toilet is being tested in one Chennai train.
When the test phase is complete, the Indian Railways plans to install eco-friendly toilets in its approximately 9,000 trains by 2011-13.