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From Bio-waste to bio-gas!

Convince industrialists in rural India to build self-sustainable community toilets!

Photo of Bhanu Prakash
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Imagine Sunita, 45 who lives in a joint family in rural India and has no access to a toilet at home. Even if there is a toilet, its in a pitiful state which triggers her to hold her bladder to avoid watchful eyes & relieve herself at early morning and late night making her vulnerable to snake bites/rape and imminent danger to her personal security. 

This condition is similar in the plantation/industry site where she works where there is no washroom till far distances.

The idea is to advise plantation sites/industrialists who are employing Sunita & other women like hers to build community toilets in & around the sites where the bio-waste is converted to bio-gas which powers the electricity and also caters to the energy requirements of the plantation site. There is a clear value proposition for all stakeholders involved. Sunita gets a safe toilet & the site owners get free electricity with clear return on investment which will also ensure regular maintenance of the same. There is clearly a problem in rural India where -even if there has been toilets constructed - they are badly maintained. This idea will take care of the same problem.

How do we get Sunita & others to start using it?

Of the various reports available online - more than creation of toilets another big problem is usage. How do we bring in a behavior change to make them start using it?

There is a clear insight of entertainment consumption in India where rural households huddle up in the evening to watch TV etc. Also women go to toilets in groups in rural India as it makes them feel safe. The community toilet can double up as a entertainment center where movies are screened etc & regular messages of safety are broadcasted to bring in a slow behavior change. 

Though the concept of community toilets is not new, there is clear ROI which we can show the industrialists which will ensure creation & maintenance of more such toilets in rural villages.

How would you describe the stage of development of your idea?

  • Conceptual Development

How big or scalable is the potential of your idea?

636 million households in India do not have access to basic toilets at home. The exact demographic/TG size to be impacted by this idea is yet to be determined.

Explain the sustainability aspect of your idea

The idea is sustainable & viable as the initial cost of creation of toilets by the industry is recoverable in the form of free electricity and cut down of energy costs for the site.

What types of financing would be required for your idea to be successful?

Initial seed fund to set up an advisory board which consults the industrialists and facilitates the construction of the bio-waste plant and sets up the infrastructure required to generate energy from the same

If you are proposing to partner with other organizations, please explain their role and reason for partnership.

a. Ministry of Bio gas & renewable energy which has started taking baby steps in eco friendly energy development b. http://www.greenelephant.in/ - large scale bio gas projects c. http://www.biogas-india.com/ d. Sulabh - involved in setting up toilets in rural India

In-country experience

  • Yes, for two or more years

If you have been operating in India, what has been your focus?

I am an advertising professional whose main work has been devising strategies for fortune 500 brands. I have also been involved in developmental work by setting up free community libraries with bakul.org & am highly passionate about design thinking and how it can be used to arrive at ideas and create large-scale impact.

Is your organization currently legally registered in India?

  • No

What states or districts will you target/are you targeting within India?

Rural Orissa - where I grew up - the challenge is rampant. It can be a starting point to pilot.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I have been born and brought up in a small rural village in Odisha. Though I moved to a city, I have seen the problem up close and believe there needs to be a large scale solution real soon. The current team working on this idea is the community at OpenIDEO Delhi Meetups - but we have access to different organisations working in the sector that can take the idea forward even if limited by our own capacity. This is where our efforts will focus post refinement and impact phases of this challenge.

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Photo of Ronak Kamdar
Team

It might be a good idea to explore the leasing model used in the solar industry. The company bears the cost of installing the technology, while the consumer pays for the energy used. The added benefit being that the workers have a free toilet to use!

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