To solve India’s sanitation crisis, we need innovative solutions that are cost-effective and feasible for last-mile connectivity.
It was in 1986 when the Indian government launched the Central Rural Sanitation Programme—the first nationwide programme to improve the quality of life of citizens.
32 years down the line, while things have indeed changed radically with initiatives under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan aggressively penetrating the rural sectors of the country in the last five years, India continues to fight one of its stickiest stigmas—Open Defecation.
If there are toilets in place, then there are issues of their usage, maintenance and most importantly, the availability of water and functional sewerage systems.
But imagine a solution that requires none of these and also keeps away the stench!
Tiger Toilets is an example of sustainable ingenuity at its best.
Founded in 2015, these unique toilets are popping up outside homes and schools around the country with over 4,000 units in place.
What’s so special about these?
Linked to no sewer systems or traditional flushing mechanisms, these toilets are modelled to look like any other pit latrines, but have biological agents to work the deed—tiger worms!
Tiger worms or Eisenia fetida are organisms that naturally breed on different types of faeces, including cow and horse dung.
The toilets have in-built compartments housing these worms that break down human waste efficiently, with a result comprising of a mixture of water, carbon dioxide, and a small quantity of “wormy compost”.
“These worms, they won’t escape on their own, because they won’t survive in just soil. They need our human waste to live,” Ajeet Oak, Director, Tiger Toilet, told Business Insider.
A typical unit costs about ₹25,000 to install and requires no connection to drainage pipes or a mainline sewer.
Once a person is done attending to nature’s call, they merely need to send their waste down to the worm-filled compartment with a little bucket of water.
The worms take care of everything after that—leaving behind no stench or breeding any mosquitoes or flies!
Removing 99 per cent of the pathogens, and leaving behind about 15 per cent of the original waste, Tiger Toilets kill two birds with one stone—that of sanitation as well as waste management.
The by-product, which is about 60-70 per cent water, acts as “an excellent fertiliser” for plants.
While the processed water isn’t fit enough for consumption, it can be released into the ground to be filtered naturally, without the need for wastewater treatment plants.
According to the company, these toilets need maintenance activities only once in eight or ten years, where the worm bin, which isn’t visible to toilet users, must be emptied.
“It’s not a terrible job – you don’t have to handle sludge. Simply remove the lid of the toilet, exposing the top layer of worm castings–their leftovers from years of hard work. Then shovel it out and use it in a garden as fertiliser. Then the worm population will be ready to work again,” explained Oak.
For initial testing across India, Myanmar and Uganda, Tiger Toilets had received ₹1.2 crore from USAID. And their efforts to make this technology reach the people who need it the most are finally being answered.
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The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation recently awarded a grant of ₹34 crore to the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine to perfect this technology.
In a country that continues to have a high infant mortality rate owing to diarrhoeal diseases, these toilets project a great potential. While the dream of making India ODF is indeed a prerogative, providing a better quality of life to her citizens must begin with equitable access to sanitation.
To know more about Tiger Toilets, look up their website.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)