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How Zero Discharge Toilet Systems can solve India’s sanitation woes



By Rituparna Chakrobarty

In the rail budget, the Government had announced its plans to convert regular toilets into biological ones. To help government over come this challenge, Indian Institute Of Technology(IIT)-Kanpur’s Dr. Vinod Tare worked on this idea and came up with  Zero Discharge Toilet System which not only saves water but also converts human waste into fertilizers.

‘Ministry of Indian Railways approached Dr. Vinod Tare of Indian Institute Of Technology(IIT)-Kanpur and asked to develop biodegradable toilets which  avoid direct dumping of fluids on the tracks and cause less pollution. The institute invented Zero Discharge Toilet System (ZDTS), but since then no government body has approached us.’ said Rakesh Mishra, deputy project manager at IIT-K.

‘If these toilets are adopted soon into the railways then it would be a big step towards clean environment under the Swachch Bharat campaign,’ Mishra added.

What is ZDTS?

ZDTS stands Zero Discharge Toilets, and are different from other toilets which are used in houses and offices. Normal toilets discharge the effluents or water but ZDTS does not discharge any fecal matter or water or anything through it.

How does it work?

ZDTS collects all the fecal matter which is then vermicomposed. The waste becomes organic fertilizer and is free from pathogens. The amount of water which is used for flushing is very minimal and the used water gets stored into the tank for reuse. These toilets are mobile as well as stationery.

Cost and maintenance

About the cost, Mishra said that the installation charges vary from place to place like from community toilets, public toilets to railway toilets.

While talking to NewsGram, Mishra said that after the completion of ZDTS project with collaboration from UNICEF, these toilets were installed as community toilets in Aligarh for two years.

Greatest Achievement

During Maha Kumbh at Allahabad in the year 2012, approximately 300 such toilets were installed which were used by 3000-4000 people on daily basis. In 2015, on the occasion of MaghMela at Allahabad these toilets were used again to save the water body from getting polluted.

At present Samnvay, an NGO has taken the initiative to promote these toilets and help in operating and maintenance.




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IIT-Kanpur Boy Brings Home the Prestigious James Dyson Award 2017, Designs ‘Maattam’ for Efficient Transfer of Patients

The James Dyson Award runs in 23 countries and was for the first time extended to the Indian students.

James Dyson Award
Seen here is James Dyson; the James Dyson Award is an international product design award that aims to celebrate the budding generation of design engineers. The award honors some of the most innovative product designs. Wikimedia

New Delhi, September 8, 2017 : Asish Mohandas, a product design student of IIT-Kanpur, has won the India James Dyson Award 2017 — an international design competition — for his innovative product that will help in the efficient transfer of patients from one place to the other without causing them any pain.

The product — named as “MAATTAM” a retrofit patient transfer system — works similar to a treadmill having a moving platform with a wide conveyor fabric belt and rollers on either ends.

MAATTAM being a retrofit can be put on top of any wheeled stretcher with flat top surface and height adjustment facility, converting it into a transfer stretcher.

“I resolved to design MAATTAM as I surveyed amongst doctors, nurses, ward boys to conclude that the majority of hospitals and clinics in India do not have efficient stretcher that transfers patient without any pain,” Mohandas said in a statement on Thursday.

“I wanted to design a simple, affordable and retrofit solution which would most appropriately solve the problem of patient transfer in hospitals and create a better experience, every time the patient is getting transferred. It will also ensure evading the problem of spine disorders while shifting,” Mohandas added.

The James Dyson Award runs in 23 countries and was for the first time extended to the Indian students.

Mohandas will receive £2,000 along with James Dyson Award Certificate from the James Dyson Foundation. He will now be running for the International Winner Award and prize money of £30,000.

He aims to commercialise this product and is in the process of developing the full-scale model of the retrofit stretcher which would be able to transfer an adult of height up to 180 cm and weight of maximum 95 kg.

Accompanying MAATTAM are four Indian runners-up: Eco-friendly faucet, Railroad crack detection bot, QuiSmo, and Saviour. (IANS)

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Kumbh Mela – Mapping the Ephemeral Mega-City: Harvard Publishes a Book on Hindu Festival

The Maha Kumbh Mela is a 55-day long confluence which is held periodically after every 12 years


Harvard University has added prestige and importance to the Indian heritage by publishing ‘Kumbh Mela – Mapping the Ephemeral Mega-City,’ a book that details about the brilliance with which Maha Kumbh Mela of 2013 was organised.

The studies were carried out by a team of 50 professors and students at the South Asia Institute of Harvard to learn about what makes this temporarily built city of pilgrimage a “megacity.” The book was launched this year, in 2016, on August 1, mentioned the TOI report.

Swami Nithyananda during the Maha Kumbh Mela. Source: Wikimedia Commons
Swami Nithyananda during the Maha Kumbh Mela. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

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India is one of the most culturally and spiritually rich nations of the world, where Eid, Diwali, Christmas and all festivals are celebrated with great zeal. With some celebrations lasting for days and months, the Kumbh Mela is a mass pilgrimage of Hindu devotees that take a dip in the sacred rivers to wash off their sins. The Maha Kumbh Mela is a 55-day long confluence which is held periodically after every 12 years.

Special fleet services during the mela. Source: Wikimedia Commons
Special fleet services during the mela. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

According to the TOI report, this 449-page book contains town planners, architectural and infrastructural plans of bigger cities than the mela, which locates the Kumbh Mela as a better-organised spectacle than Manhattan and FIFA World Cup held in Brazil in 2014. The book calls the confluence ‘more than mere a spectacle.’

“How more than 100 million come to a small place, stay there for 55 days, apart from a daily cycle of a crowd of nearly five million bathing at the confluence of the holy rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati, meet each other, pray, join their gurus, camp with sadhus and ascetics and safely return to their native places are the things worth studying.”

– ‘KumbhMela- Mapping the Ephemeral Mega-City’

Electric water scooters for emergency equipments Source: Wikimedia Commons
Electric water scooters for emergency equipments. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
  • The Kumbh Mela of 2013 was organised in Allahabad under the government of Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav. Yadav launched the Hindi translation of the book in Lucknow on Monday, August 1.
  • 390 million of total calls and messages were sent and received over the period of the mela making it the largest usage of mobile phones in a concentrated area.
  • Total 146 million messages were exchanged and over 245 million calls were made.

prepared by Chetna Karnani, at NewsGram. Twitter: @karnani_chetna


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India’s Kumbh Melas: The traditional Congregation is under danger due to Water Scarcity

According to a report by Indian Institute of Technology, maintaining the continuous flow of water in these rivers has become a big challenge

Pilgrims taking dip at Kumbh Mela. Image Source:
  • The practice of organizing Kumbh Mela dates back to the eighth century and are hosted at  Allahabad, Haridwar, Ujjain and Nashik
  • The un-thought measures in a country that are already one of the most water-stressed countries are nothing less than catastrophic
  • These congregations are not spaced out they add to the woes of the holy rivers

The receding holy water at the Kumbh Melas is a stark reflection of water scarcity inflicted by man, which in turn is intensified by adverse weather conditions.

Reflecting on the unfortunate state of river Shipra, Badal Nath (64) said, “The last time (12 years ago), it was a stinking drain, nauseating even to step into, let alone take a dip. The water we see now has been pumped from the Narmada. What have we done to our holy river?”

This quote seems to be inappropriate when you read about the smoothly flowing Shipra river in the Simhastha Kumbh Mela that ended on May 21. But the truth that it was a superficial arrangement. The water was pumped through a concrete, closed pipe from the Narmada to Shipra so that pilgrims could conveniently take their holy dip.

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A few years ago, Shipra was hardly recognizable as a holy river and all it carried was sewage. Later, the BJP led Madhya Pradesh government came up with what is today termed as a ‘skewed’ scheme to transfer five cusecs of water every day from the Narmada near Omkareshwar to Shipra.

Another instance of negligence and failure by the government bodies is the condition of the Godavari, which also hosts a Kumbh Mela every 12 years. Putting the ancient Hindu practice of taking a dip in the holy water in danger, it was observed that Ramkund in Nashik, the center of the festival last year, had also dried up in April for the first time.

The practice of organizing Kumbh Mela dates back to the 8th century, during which the pilgrims take a dip in the sacred water bodies in a hope of finding salvation at four places- namely, Allahabad, Haridwar, Ujjain, and Nashik. Each place holds its congregation every 12 years and is usually visited by millions of pilgrims.

The lack of water in these rivers is mostly covered up by the government and civic bodies to escape massive public anger and therefore, they usually come up with short-lived and temporary solutions. Apart from this, there is one more reason that contributes to the problem. These congregations are not spaced out (say, for example, the Nashik Kumbh was held in 2015 and shortly after Ujjain Kumbh was hosted in 2016), they add to the woes of our holy rivers.

Nashik Kumbh Mela 2015. Image Source:
Nashik Kumbh Mela 2015. Image Source:

According to a report by Indian Institute of Technology, maintaining the continuous flow of water in these rivers has become a big challenge.

The long period of drought in Central India has worsened the effect of government’s negligence of Godavari. The result was that the Municipal Corporation had to turn to pump water from groundwater in 2015.

These un-thought measures in a country that are already one of the most water-stressed countries are nothing less than catastrophic.

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No doubt, India is going through the worst hydrological crisis of all times. quoted Himanshu Thakkar, a river expert as saying, “Although the change in weather patterns and increasing rise in temperatures have contributed to it, our rivers are facing unprecedented deterioration today because of the way we have ill-treated them.”

Somnath Bandyopadhyay, an ecologist, also added, “Some of the projects implemented in the 1950s and 60s failed to take the long view, and have contributed to the present sorry situation of sick and dying rivers.”

Thakkar believes that immediate remedial measures must be taken to restore the water flow of these rivers.

Many believe that the Hindu society needs to actively participate since it is about safeguarding their religion and tradition.

However, for now, it seems that our holy rivers are in serious danger, which can’t be reversed any time soon.

-prepared by Bulbul Sharma, a staff-writer at NewsGram. Twitter handle: iBulbul_