The Humanure Power Project

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The Humanure Power Project kills two birds with one stone, providing a waste management solution which also helps generate an affordable electricity supply for homes in the village of Sukhpur, Bihar.

Author Anna Rees, 10.02.12

The Humanure Power Project kills two birds with one stone, providing a waste management solution which also helps generate an affordable electricity supply for homes in the village of Sukhpur, Bihar.

The residents of the village of Sukhpur in the northern state of Bihar face numerous obstacles when going about their daily lives, two of the most prominent being lack adequate of toilet facilities and low access to an electrical supply. In response to this, six students from New Orleans-based Tulane University decided to use one problem to help solve another. To put it bluntly, they employed the power of poo.

The incredibly catchy-monikered Humanure Power Project (HPP) directly addresses the issue that more than 620 million people in India have no access to proper toilet facilities and another 400 million go without electricity and pay high sums for kerosene to light lamps. To tackle these statistics, HPP will install community blocks of toilets in Sukhpur that convert human waste into energy, which will then be used to charge 12 volt batteries that can be rented to villagers for a very small, affordable cost.

The blocks will feature twenty toilets (ten for men and ten for women) and each toilet’s drain system will lead to a closed, biogas digester. When human waste decomposes, it produces methane gas. This gas will then be used to power a generator which in turn produces the electricity needed to fire up the batteries.

The money generated from renting out the batteries will be put towards installing more toilets, with the eventual aim of making the project completely, economically self-sufficient.

Aside from directly responding to issues of outside defecation and lack of electricity, the project aims to address sanitation and public health. While conducting research into the area, the team found that many of the villagers make long and at-times dangerous journeys in order to simply relieve themselves. This open defecation can easily end up in waterways, posing serious health risks, with water-borne diseases such as cholera, malaria and Japanese Encephalitis being among the highest causes of death in the country. By installing safe, communal toilet blocks within easy walking distance, the team behind HPP hopes to reduce the risk of water-borne diseases.

In June this year, the team was named as a finalist in the Dell Social Innovation Challenge, earning them $30,000 USD, every penny of which will go into launching their pilot program in Bihar. Keep tabs on their progress via their Facebook page and check out the video below for details on the project in their own words.

Author: Anna Rees/ RESET editorial

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