Solar-Powered & Self-Cleaning Toilets for Swachh Bharat

Visitors to Kerala’s Thiruvananthapuram Zoo will no longer have to fret about locating a clean public toilet. Recently, on World Toilet Day 2017, the zoo launched the first-ever ‘Smart She’ toilet on its premise.

Equipped with a sanitary napkin vending machine and a napkin incinerator, the unmanned self-cleaning toilet also has baby feeding and diaper changing stations. The user has to insert a coin to open the door, and its sensor-based light system is automatically turned on once you enter the toilet.

This unique toilet design is the brainchild of Thiruvananthapuram-based Eram Scientific Solutions, an R&D social enterprise that works on innovative solutions that can provide better sanitation for the nearly 600 million Indians who still defecate in the open.

According to World Health Organisation’s May 2017 fact sheet, at least 50% malnutrition in India is associated with repeated diarrhoea or intestinal worm infections from unsafe water or poor sanitation.

In fact, diarrhoea remains the second leading cause of death in Indian children under age five, killing an estimated 321 children every day and leaving millions more malnourished.

While building toilets across the country are the need of the hour, it is also important to pay attention to their environment-friendliness, public utility and easy maintenance — a vast majority of Indians do not use existing public toilets due to their ramshackle state and unhygienic conditions.

Thus, Eram’s approach was to come up with innovative, easy-to-operate alternatives that could change the way traditional public sanitation worked in India. And the solution it found was e-toilets — a sleek steel cubicle equipped with a multitude of electronics to help it function as an automated, solar-powered and self-cleaning toilet.

Eram’s e-toilet flushes itself before, and after every use, with a minimum amount of water, that is determined through sensors: On an average, each flush uses 1.5 litres of water, compared to the 8-10 litres used by a normal flush. Its floor is automatically washed after every tenth use.

The lights also turn on automatically and draw power from a built-in solar panel. Everything is monitored through GPRS telemetry: the frequency and volume of usage, and water and electricity consumption. Also, there are provisions for waste treatment using anaerobic biodegradation.

All these provisions help ensure that these energy-efficient toilets can be installed in locations where access to electricity and common sanitation methods is difficult, if not impossible.

Till date, Eram Scientific Solutions has established over 2,100 e-toilet units across 20 states in India. This includes variants like She-Toilets for women, D-lite toilets for school kids and disabled-friendly toilets. It has also developed an app through which one can search for and locate the nearest e-toilet.

A full-fledged commercial e-toilet model that can recycle waste to make fertilizers, regenerate water and produce energy is next on the cards.