/**SNAP Code begin **/ /**SNAP Code end **/

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Finally Some Bharat Rail Toilet Etiquette

Not just bathrooms, tracks and stations won't stink either

My pet peeve about traveling by rail has always been the toilets. Stations stink because the tracks are used as sewers. Toilets themselves stink because of poor design. But that may change soon.

Bharat Rail launched a pilot project to take the stink out from railway toilets using bio-septic tanks. Instead of using the usual septic tank system, like most railways in the world do, that is used to collect waste, which is later pumped out to be treated in a waste treatment plant, Indian Railways is trying a new approach.

The pilot project is being implemented on one of the 25 carriages of the Prayag Raj Express by the Railways’ Research, Design & Standardisation Organisation (RDSO) in collaboration with Microphor of US, and Aikon Technology of India.

The waste is collected in a stainless steel tank divided into two sections. The first contains a patented man-made bacterial culture that breaks down wastes by enzyme action. The resulting liquid — mostly water, and entirely free of pathogens — is led into the second section where it is purified by chlorine and other chemicals before dispersal. A flap valve in the commode prevents the odour generated during the process from reaching the toilet and inconveniencing users.

The only undesirable by-product is some methane gas, but the amount is negligible in comparison to that generated by normal degradation of wastes.

But the toilets don’t come cheap. Installing four such toilets in each carriage costs Rs 8 lakh and and annual maintenance for each coach works out to Rs 2 lakh. Contracts have been awarded to Microphor and Aikon Technologies to install 80 such toilets.

“Results have been good so far,” said Northern Railway spokesman Rajiv Saxena, adding that another spinoff was less corrosion of tracks, which could mean lower track maintenance bills.

Shriti Shukla, co-ordinator in India for the World Wildlife Fund’s climate change and energy programme, said, “Since we have one of the largest railway networks in the country, this environment-friendly idea will help. It will also improve lives of people whose homes are next to railway tracks.”[IE]

You can say the last bit again. Hope the project is rolled out nationally fast to clean up railway air at the earliest.