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In the present day, the whole world is struggling with the issue of scarcity of water. Water resources are slowly drying and it is speculated that several cities run at a high risk of running out of water in the coming years.

It has been observed that one of the most useful ways to fight the scarcity is by promoting efficient recycling of water.

Recognising the problem of water scarcity along with the improper sanitation facilities in the country, the Civil Engineering department of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kharagpur has achieved a commendable feat by building “bioelectric toilet”. This toilet has a treatment capacity of 1500 Litres. Not just this, but the device has built to generate electricity as well. The good news is that once filled, it needs no fresh water refilling for up to 15 years or even more.

This invention received several accolades. The team has also won the “Swachh Bharat” award. It has entered into an agreement with the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) to install one unit at rural Noida.

Efficient solution to the problem of water scarcity and sanitation facilities

It has been observed that the lack of proper sanitation facilities in India has led to severe health hazards. In rural areas, septic tanks are the most commonly used sanitation facility which can remove chemical oxygen demand (COD) of about 30%-40%. Rest of the organic matter along with the pathogenic microorganisms are released into the environment which then pollutes the water bodies.

The bioelectric toilet is a multi-chamber device having a capacity of 1500 Litres. This is based on the microbial fuel cell (MFC) technology which efficiently removes up to 95% COD. Apart from treating the dirty water and the settled sludge, the MFC technology also helps in generating electricity.

While the usual toilets use up to 10-12 litres of water per flush, due to the efficient recycling of water by the bioelectric toilet, there is no need to refill the tank for about 15 years.

Prof M M Ghangrekar, who along with his team built this bioelectric toilet, said to The Logical Indian that the this was the result of work done over 14 years. He said, “We started the whole project more than 14 years back. The Bioelectric toilet was built after long research and with the involvement of a large number of people. We initially started with a device of just 1-litre capacity, which then gradually grew to 25 litres, 100 litres and now that of 1500 litres.”

Prof M M Ghangrekar’s team at present has 12 research scholars and four masters students.

Talking about recycling efficiency, he said, “From the recycling point of view, the device is working fine. In normal septic tank, only 30-40% waste is removed. Whereas, our system gives 80-90% organic matter removal. We have also used bleaching powder and Hypochlorite to further disintegrate the waste. One of the major advantages of this toilet is that we have been able to achieve effective treatment of wastewater.”

Talking about the electricity generation capacity of the device, he said, “The large reactor as that of ours is able to harvest 2-3% electricity. To be called an electricity generating device, it should achieve 5-7% electricity harvesting. We have identified certain areas of improvement which we are working on.”

The impressive features of this bioelectric toilet have made the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) enter into an agreement with the team to install one of the demo models in rural Noida. “One unit has already been sent from Kolkata to the NTPC. They will commission the unit later this month.”

With an aim to improve the bioelectric toilet even further, the team has already recognised areas of improvement. “At present, we are working on improving the electricity harvesting efficiency of the toilet. Apart from this, we aim to bring down the production cost. The whole production cost of this toilet is about Rs 1.5 lakh. We aim to bring down the cost to Rs 50,000. This task seems very ambitious, but we are working towards it.”

The Logical Indian appreciates the efforts of all those involved in the project. We salute Dr M M Ghangrekar and his entire team in providing such an efficient solution to the problem of water scarcity and sanitation in the country.