The Indian Railways is planning to install 40,000 bio-digester toilets designed by the Gwalior-based Defence Research and Development Establishment (DRDE), in passenger trains to resolve the problem of un-decomposed human waste littered on train toilets and tracks.

DRDE director Lokendra Singh told HT that he was hopeful that by 2019 train toilets and tracks would be clean and free of fecal matter.

“The technology is already in use in some places and it will be expanded rapidly,” Singh said.

He also said that he was hopeful that the entire passenger train network would be covered soon.

The first bio-digester was used in Barauni Mail plying between Gwalior and Barauni via Kanpur and Lucknow.

The bio-digester technology involves development of classified bacteria, which are non-hazardous and are grown in laboratories. These bacteria can withstand extreme climate varying from -40 degree Celsius (Siachen) to over 50 degree C (Rajasthan region). A steel container for storage of these bacteria was then attached to toilet to convert human excreta into liquid and bio-gas after due process.

An agreement was signed between the Railways and the DRDE for the transfer and commercial use of the technology.

There are about 50,000 operational passengers’ coaches with Indian railways and on an average 4000 new coaches are produced every year in different factories.

“It is a low-cost, maintenance-free and sustainable technology,” Singh said.

Singh heads research and development projects related to bio-digester, biosensor and biological warfare (BW) agents. The technology developed by him for human waste degradation at low temperature areas like Siachen has already been used successfully.

The use of the technology by the Railways would tremendously help the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Singh said.

He said disposing or removing human excreta had always been a major challenge for the Railways.

‘Technology will be game-changer not only for railways but for cities and villages’

“The technology will be game-changer not only for railways but for cities and villages,” said Singh, a recipient of several prestigious awards.

Singh has also contributed significantly in the development of biosensor for toxins and pathogens, which are being used for military and public health programmes.