Half of India’s population does not have access to toilets. And while there are many initiatives by Corporates, Foundations, Government bodies aimed at constructing Toilets to bridge this huge need-supply gap, it may not lead to curbing open defecation after all. ‘Most organizations and companies focus on latrine/toilet building, something we call the super-structure. Not sure, whether the governments or these organizations and corporations are equipped/committed to the fecal matter treatment as well. If the untreated human waste is dumped – it’ll lead to groundwater contamination’, explains Sanjay Banka, Director, Banka BioLoo.
Banka BioLoo is a revolutionary technology originally developed by the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO), R&D arm of Indian defense. They had developed this climate-resilient and environmentally-friendly bio-technology for the defence personnel. With the DRDO on board as technical partners, Banka BioLoo are making the application available for the civilian population. This unique bio-toilet system disposes human waste in a 100% eco-friendly manner and also saves energy, conserves water & produces bio-gas in the process. In fact, the system leaves pathogen-free water as effluent that can be re-used. For large bio-tanks, methane can be collected and used. These can be installed anywhere, without specification of land type, terrain, distance, etc. Not only are the BioLoos easy-to-install, they provide a hygienic human waste disposal mechanism in areas with no infrastructural facilities available. Thus they are able to address the need for a cheaper and easy-to-operate alternative to the traditional waste disposal system.
Having worked with Corporate houses like Shapoorji Pallonji, Sanjay believes that with the BioLoo they can help Corporates make a real difference in the lives of people. ‘More than the funds commitment, Corporates need to ensure that they have a good implementing partner. It is very important that the companies talk to different enterprises who have worked in the sector rather than giving in to the impulse of handing the task over to an NGO.’ While there is growing talk about involving the private sector in water and sanitation, Companies usually seem more inclined to work with NGOs as implementation partners for CSR activities. ‘Being on the ground and having interacted with many companies – the conclusion is that too much of funds have been “committed” to improving sanitation, but the reality seems otherwise’ says Banka.
A very notable contribution of Bank BioLoo has been in the Indian Railways. The company provides bio-tanks and also undertakes operations & maintenance contracts for the specialized toilet systems installed in trains. The Indian Railways’s open-chute toilet system is a grave concern as the human waste drops on the rail tracks and untreated fecal matter remains lying in the open. The specialized toilet systems installed by Banka BioLoo help create a fecal free environment for millions living near rail tracks and also save the corrosion expense of tracks. Taking their work with the Indian Railways further they have recently commenced work on the installation of a demo bio-toilet near a railway station. This would undoubtedly be a boon for millions, if the project is adopted by the government or as a CSR initiative.
In the year 2013-14 Banka BioLoo has set up 455 installations for the Railways and another 155 at various locations benefitting 22,750 and 2300 daily users respectively. They are now present in more than 7 Indian states and have enabled access of hygienic sanitation to families, schools, members of public and on-site workers. ‘Families and communities, with access to BioLoos, don’t defecate in the open and their health has improved as human waste is not littered. Womenfolk use BioLoos and have no fear of security, and have a sense of dignity’ says Banka.
Although this concept of onsite/off-grid treatment of human waste is nascent the Banka BioLoo is an easily scalable and sustainable solution to India’s challenge of sanitation and curbing open defecation. A strategic engagement of the private sector is imperative if they are genuinely committed to achieving a real impact through CSR. Investing time on researching and selecting the best available option for addressing an issue through CSR spend can have a far reaching impact. It can help social enterprises like Banka BioLoo reach out to places where toilets are rare and facilities are bare; the need is substantial and the problem is acute.