Ujjain, located in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh on the banks of river Shipra is one of the most sacred cities of India. Though it’s a religious destination all around the year, this year carries a special significance. The city will witness a month long Simhastha Kumbh beginning April 22.
The event would be organised across 3,000 hectares and over five crore (50,000,000) devotees are expected to participate in the religious congregation. Being organised after a gap of 12 years, the Simhastha is considered very auspicious by Hindus.
Given the massive influx of devotees expected for the Kumbh, providing safe water and sanitation to so many is a huge challenge. For this, WaterAid India was approached by the Divisional Commissioner of Ujjain to provide technical assistance for safe technologies of sanitation to handle such a large gathering. After several discussions and visits to the proposed event areas, WaterAid agreed to support Ujjain Municipal Corporation in providing zero discharge mobile toilets, capacitating private sector players on inclusion of sustainable and environmentally safe low cost sanitation technological solutions in the Kumbh area and installation of a model Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) technology based bio-digester in a public toilet at a key site of the Simhastha Kumbh, which lacks safe disposal of waste.
The zero discharge mobile toilet model developed by the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi was successfully piloted at the Kartik Mela held in December 2015. The toilets are identical to conventional toilets. However, functionally, the solid and liquid waste matter is separated underneath the toilet seat by using a solid-liquid separator. The separator allows formation of a thin water film that adheres to the surface and flows out while the solids gravitate into the central retention compartment of the retention cum polishing tank. The solids gradually disintegrate to form slurry which is then evacuated from the tank under gravity. The liquid is passed through a micro-filter and recycled for flushing the toilet thus avoiding the excessive use of fresh water. Specially developed microbial cultures are used to eliminate any foul odour. The faecal slurry is converted into organic manure through activated aerobic composting and vermin-composting for rapid and effective utilisation of valuable organic nutrients.
The toilet was inaugurated by the Mayor and Commissioner of Ujjain Municipal Corporation on the inaugural day of the Kartik Mela. After having seen the technology, the corporation agreed to take this forward at scale during the Simhastha Kumbh to cater to the sanitation needs of millions of visitors.
WaterAid India will be working with various partners to increase awareness among pilgrims during the Kumbh about the need to prevent open defecation and the benefits of using toilets and is also supporting the Ujjain Municipal Corporation in making the city open defecation free by 2018.Chanchal Kumar is Programme Coordinator at WaterAid India west office.