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Indian Railways generates 6000 tonnes solid waste from trains and passengers at railway stations every day. Photo: Mint
Indian Railways generates 6000 tonnes solid waste from trains and passengers at railway stations every day. Photo: Mint

All railway coaches to have bio-toilets by 2019

Railways says all 55,000 coaches would be fitted with 1,40,000 bio-toilets by 2019 under its Swachh Rail-Swachh Bharat programme

New Delhi: Indian Railways will fit bio-toilets on all its coaches by 2019, two years ahead of schedule, a government official said.

“By 2019, all 55,000 coaches of Indian Railways would be fitted with 1,40,000 bio-toilets," Railway Board member (mechanical) Hemant Kumar said at a conference on waste management in railways at Vigyan Bhawan on Monday. “Till 31March, 2016, we have installed around 35,000 bio-toilets in 10,000 railway coaches and are quite confident of achieving this target."

Train toilets in India have always emptied human waste on to railway tracks, an unhygienic practice that also corrodes tracks. Under its Swachh Rail-Swachh Bharat (Clean Rail-Clean India) programme, railways had planned to phase out such toilets by 2020-21.

According to a railway ministry official who did not want to be identified, apart from the rail budget, railways is also tapping corporate social responsibility (CSR) funds and adaptation and mitigation funds from the central government to pay for the bio-toilet installation. Besides, starting June, 1% of all project costs would be given to the environmental directorate of the railways which was set up last year, and spent for environmental purposes.

According to estimates by RITES, an engineering consultancy, Indian Railways generates 6000 tonnes solid waste from trains and passengers at railway stations every day, out of which about 4,000 tonnes of human waste is dumped directly onto the rail tracks.

In 2014, Indian Railways in collaboration with Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) developed a bio-toilet. Flushing a bio-toilet discharges human waste into an underfloor holding tank where anaerobic bacteria remove harmful pathogens and break the waste down into neutral water and methane. These harmless by-products can then be safely discharged onto the tracks without causing corrosion or foul odours. A stainless steel bio-toilet set with six chambers costs around 90,000.

Indian Railways, which consumes 1000 million litres per day (MLD), is also planning to increase its water-recycling capacity from 12 MLD to 200 MLD in the next five years, Railway Board member Kumar added.

Railways environment adviser K. Swaminathan said water recycling will be a key features of railways’ environmental sustainability effort. Around 40 water recycling plants are being constructed and commissioned. He added that Indian Railways has already conducted water audit at 85 locations in 2015-16.

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