5,000 green toilets to be set up along the Ganga River Basin

Plan to implement ecologically friendly bio-digester toilets along India’s holiest river to try and curb pollution.

Autor*in Anna Rees, 12.11.12

Plan to implement ecologically friendly bio-digester toilets along India’s holiest river to try and curb pollution.

Really, is there anything better than a good toilet story? Well yes, of course there is but tales of projects which allow people access to safe, sanitary sewage conditions just never seem to get old. So the ambitious program to set up 5,000 zero waste, bio-digester toilets along a jaw-dropping 2,500 km stretch of the Ganga basin has got us practically doing cartwheels.

The project, spearheaded by Ganga Action Parivaar (GAP), Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), aims to start reversing some of the environmental damage inflicted upon the Ganga River, which is commonly the end place for sewage, untreated industrial effluent, chemical fertilisers and pesticides.

Human waste is also a major pollutant of the river. Approximately 450 million people inhabit the Ganga River Basin. Lack of proper toilet facilities means many residents defecate directly in the river, adding to the existing pollution problems that India’s most holy river already faces and potentially spreading disease.

According to The Hindu, the bio-digester toilets mix special bacteria with human waste in tanks, which turns the waste into colourless, odourless and inflammable bio gas containing 50 – 70 percent methane. The process is safe and hygienic and the bio digesters combust the bio gas to prevent its release into the atmosphere. The proposed purpose of the gas would be to power cooking, rural electrification and heating as well as fertilisation of crops. For more details on how bio-digester toilets work, check here.

These mobile “green” toilets will be erected at various locations during Kumbh Mela next year when more than 100 million people are expected to make the pilgrimage to the Ganga River, with plans for further expansion to Har ki Paudi, Gangotri, Yamunotir, Kedarnath and Badrinath to follow.

There have recently been calls from government to rid India of open defecation, including from Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and former Rural Development Minister Jairam Manesh. This project, with involvement from the private, public and non-profit sectors, demonstrates that the way forward must take a collective approach in order to achieve sustainable and widespread results. Keep up to date on the project via Ganga Action’s website.

Author: Anna Rees/ RESET editorial

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