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bioloos: Sustainable Solution to India's Sanitation Challenge

Banka BioLoo provides sustainable and environmentally-friendly sanitation infrastructure with onsite waste treatment facility.

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The bio-toilet, based on the bio-digester technology, consists of an easy to install super-structure (or the shelter), a multi-chambered matriced bio-tank that holds the bacterial culture (or the inoculum) and allows the treatment of the human waste. The system doesn’t need any external energy for treatment, rather gives out pathogen-free effluent water that is good for gardening and similar purposes; and small quantities of biogas that could be used for cooking or heating (in case of large tank sizes). The bio-digester technology was initially developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) for the defence personnel. Banka BioLoo has been taking this green and sustainable sanitation solution to the civil population with varying applications, across different user groups including households, schools, construction and infrastructure sites.

While the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (स्वच्छ भारत अभियान) / Clean India Mission rolls, bio-toilets or bioloos add the green dimension to this initiative.

Bio-digester Technology

Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), the defense R&D arm, undertakes research for the development of defence forces. Apart from other fascinating developments is the patented bio-digester technology – a set of bacteria that “eat away” human faeces and leave effluent water that can be reused for gardening etc., apart from biogas that can be utilized for cooking, heating and similar purposes.

“Bio-digester” technology treats human waste at source. A consortium of anaerobic bacteria has been formulated and adapted to work at temperatures as low as -5°C and as high as 50°C. These act as inoculums (seed material) to the bio-digesters and convert the organic human waste into water, methane and carbon-dioxide. The anaerobic process inactivates the pathogens responsible for water-borne diseases. Bio-digesters serve as reaction vessel for bio-methanation and provide anaerobic conditions and required temperature for the bacteria. The special design of the bio-tank can be customized as per the requirement and need of the client or end-user/beneficiary, and these toilets form “zero discharge” human waste solution.

Salient features of bio-digester based applications:

•             No foul smell in toilets from the bio-tanks

•             No need for removal of solid waste – hence no/limited maintenance

•             Effluent is free from odour and solid waste

•             Reduction in pathogens by 99% and organic matter by 90%

•             Limited / no requirement of adding bacteria

•             Use of cleaning agents is permitted up to 84 ppm

•             No infestation of cockroaches, flies and other insects

Bio-digester Toilet

The bio-toilet could be built or erected at any place without the need for connection to sewer or storing the waste matter. The bio-toilets could be made from varying materials: fibre-reinforced plastic (FRP), brick and cement or concrete, and wood. We have used all these materials for different end-users, depending on the budget and the requirement. In recent times, we have found pre-cast concrete structures to be the best - economical, sturdy and long-lasting. These are transported to the site and installed/assembled within an hour.

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

  • Scaling phase

How big or scalable is the potential of your idea?

Sanitation facilities in India have been alarmingly poor, with over 600 million people (half of India’s population) having no access to toilets, particularly in the rural areas. People are forced to defecate in the open, posing health hazards, raising environmental concerns and leading to water contamination. The enterprise provides solutions and services for human waste management, involving innovative and simple bio-digester technology patented by Indian Ministry of Defence, which helps user manage human waste onsite without depending on expensive and energy-consuming sewage infrastructure. The size of the Indian sanitation market is estimated at INR 2 trillion (for 100 million toilet units). No single entity can achieve even a small fraction of it. Banka BioLoo has attempted to provide sanitation to as many users/beneficiaries as possible. We have installed over 2,000 bio-toilets across 18 states in the country. Likewise, have installed 2,000 units in train toilets.

Explain the sustainability aspect of your idea

The entire concept of bioloo is socially and environmentally driven. In India, many marginalized sections and the not so better off communities (rural and urban) don’t have access to sanitation facilities. They defecate in the open, or in unhygienic conditions. The bioloos are an affordable and durable solution to the challenge of lack of toilets, as also help in waste treatment at site. Bio-toilet prevents diseases, and deaths caused by water-borne diseases. A large number of children die in India, and elsewhere, due to water-borne diseases, as also there is stunting due to inadequate sanitation. Better sanitation implies substantial commercial benefits: including a healthier and more productive workforce. Indian Railways plans to install bioloos in all its coaches by 2020, leading to clean tracks (absence of environmental and water pollution), and preventing corrosion of tracks. Bio-digesters contain bacteria which don’t require replenishment and hence the system is almost maintenance-free. It could decrease the number of girl dropouts from schools, as lack of toilet facilities in schools is a major cause of girls not completing their education.

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

We welcome financing by way of equity funding, debt or grants. We have had all of these at different points of time, and as we scale - more capital is required to be able to serve a larger user-base.

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

We have, for instance, partnered with companies to spread sanitation through their CSR initiatives. We also work with Foundations and CSOs but on a minor scale.

In-country experience

  • Yes, for two or more years

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

Our vision is to "Reach out where toilets are rare and facilities are bare" and the mission is to "Provide access to safe, hygienic and clean toilets to individual homes and public places with sustainable solution". To that end, we have provided bioloos in schools, trains, households, construction and infrastructure sites, certain public places. At this time, our main focus has been on rail bio-toilets (providing bio-digester tanks) and school bioloos (complete unit).

Is your organization currently legally registered in India?

  • Yes

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

So far, we've had installations in 18 states. Per se, we don't hesitate to work anywhere. Our focus, has been some of the not-so-sanitary states such as Rajasthan, Odisha, Bengal etc. In Rajasthan we are currently deploying bioloos in schools in Alwar district, whereas we recently finished in Nayagarh-Khorda districts in Odisha. Look forward to starting in Bihar soon.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

India is one of worse-off countries on WaSH. In sanitation - the country has the dubious distinction of having the highest number of open defecators, nearly 600 million. The womenfolk are a bigger sufferer of the absence of toilets, they face loss of dignity as well sense of insecurity. Namita (bioloo Founder), too, suffered due to insufficient toilets in her previous professions. Hence, the all the more passion and penchant for providing sanitation facilities, that too coupled with onsite waste treatment. The seniormost team comprises Namita Banka (Founder and CEO), Akhilesh Tripathi (Co-founder and COO), Sanjay Banka (Managing Director) and Sanjaya Choudhary (VP, Planning and Strategy).


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