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Bio-toilets, waste to wealth, river cleanup: DBT contributing to Swachh Bharat

Rapid fire

  • Six new bio-toilet technologies supported
  • Several bio-toilets to be set up in Schools of North Eastern States
  • DBT invited proposals to develop & demonstrate technologies for sustainable utilization of MSW
  • Through Mission Innovation waste to clean energy being pushed by DBT
  • Collaboration with Dutch aimed to help clean Delhi’s Barapullah drain
  • Point-of-care diagnostic formats for infectious diseases supported

Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi launched the ambitious ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ (Clean India Mission) on 2nd October 2014. The ‘Abhiyan’ was launched on Mahatma Gandhi’s 145th birth anniversary.

DBT is participating in the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan through a range of initiatives like the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge, setting up bio-toilets in schools of North Eastern States. The department is coordinating the Mission Innovation on clean energy for India, proposals have been invited to develop and demonstrate technologies for sustainable utilization of municipal solid waste for cleaner and pollution free environment as well as generation of the energy from the waste. DBT is also contributing to national efforts to clean up Indian rivers by supporting a major effort along with the Netherlands to implement novel technologies for cleaning up of the Barapullah canal. This will include setting up laboratories at the drain site. DBT has also supported technologies for bio-remediation and phyto-remediation.

Novel bio-toilet technologies supported

In an effort to give cleaner toilets to the nation, DBT & BIRAC in collaboration with BMGF has supported novel bio-toilet technologies through ‘Reinvented the Toilet Challenge for India (RTTC)’ programme. Six new bio-toilet technologies, five of which aims at developing proof of concept while one focuses on field testing of off-grid, self-sustained, modular, electronic toilet for houses and communities. The Energy and Resources Institute has been supported for installation of 100 toilets to demonstrate technology. Several bio-toilets will be set up in Schools of North Eastern States.

DBT aims to find sustainable sanitation solutions for processing waste that include controlling the environmental contamination, improving users’ acceptance and experience, ease of maintenance and operation in resource poor settings. This can be done by designing, prototyping and field-testing entirely stand-alone, self-contained, practical sanitation modules with minimal incoming water piping, no outgoing sewer piping or electric or gas utility services.

Waste to wealth

Having invited proposals for ‘Municipal Solid Waste to Energy (MSW)’ under Swachh Bharat Mission, the department seeks to support development and demonstration of technologies for sustainable utilization of MSW waste for cleaner and pollution free environment as well as generation of the energy from MSW. The current technological options available for processing/treatment and disposal of MSW have certain limitations like slow processes, incomplete conversion and huge land requirement or high-energy requirements etc. Hence, the focus of MSW proposal is to develop adequate and sustainable technologies by overcoming these limitations.

The efforts of the department towards sustainable development have received a great boost from the Government’s initiatives like Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. Key missions that DBT along with other ministries is working for include some, which are critical for the environment mitigating climate change impact on farmers and agriculture, clean energy, Swachh Bharat – waste to energy.

On April 22, 2016, India’s first cellulosic alcohol technology demonstration plant developed through indigenous technology with capacity of 10 biomass ton per day was inaugurated at Kashipur, Uttarakhand by Union Minister for Science and Technology & Earth Sciences Dr Harsha Vardhan.

The one of its kind bio-energy plant developed by DBT-ICT Centre for Energy Biosciences at ICT Mumbai with support from the Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science and Technology and its public sector undertaking – Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC), has successfully demonstrated for the first time the production of ethanol from lingo-cellulosic biomass/agriculture waste.

DBT contributes to river cleanup

DBT has collaborated with Dutch to help clean Delhi’s Barapullah drain then finally initiate efforts to keep the Yamuna clean.

A Programme of Cooperation (PoC) had been signed on November 9, 2011 between Department of Biotechnology and Directorate-General for Enterprise and Innovation, Ministry of Economic Affairs Agriculture and Innovation, Government of the Netherlands in the areas of Plant sciences and related Biotechnology; Food & Nutrition and Medical Biotechnology. The cooperation also includes public private research. In pursuance of the PoC, Department for Biotechnology, Government of India and the Netherlands organization for scientific research (NOW) and Dutch Technology Foundation (STW), Government of the Netherlands expressed interest in collaborating in the area of Water for Health. Accordingly, a joint call for proposal was announced in the area.

The call supports high quality research and development programmes aiming at ‘new’ wastewater management to ensure good quality fresh water free of risk-causing contaminants and promote productive, safe reuse of water, thereby enhancing human and environmental health conditions.

In the next five years, a wastewater treatment plant to make the filthy water potable is scheduled to be set up besides removing heavy metals from the water for reuse. Barapullah Nullah is a 12.5 km-long storm water drain responsible for about 30% of pollution in the Yamuna River collecting domestic sewage and polluting waste from small industry from Mehrauli in the south to Sarai Kale Khan in the east. “Most of our technology choices would be biological in nature,” said principal investigator T R Sreekrishnan, professor at the IIT.

Green remediation & disease eradication

DBT’s support has helped develop green remediation process for textile dyes in wastewaters, while DBT has also supported a crucial study for the understanding of genome organization & gene expression of lindane degrading bacteria.

Swachh Bharat also includes eradication of infectious diseases and reduction of disease burden. Despite improved treatment, disease such as HIV (AIDS), Typhoid, Tuberculosis, Chikungunya continue afflicting us. The best tool of curing such diseases and preventing their proliferation is their early detection. With this in mind, through DBT’s support, the University of Delhi South Campus has worked towards generating reagents and tools for developing point-of-care diagnostic formats for infectious diseases including HIV (AIDS), Typhoid, Tuberculosis and Chikungunya.

The purpose of the Swachh Bharat mission is to find solutions to cleanliness challenges that face India, where S&T can be the driving force. Cleanliness is not a linear challenge and DBT is approaching this multidimensional problem through a multipronged approach by supporting talents from several disciplines.