A 14-Year-Old and Her Plans to Build ‘Mobile Toilets’

Health, hygiene and sanitation are taken to be the hallmarks of a successful society. However for the less fortunate, even the prospect of a functioning toilet can seem like a far-fetched dream.

However, a schoolgirl from Delhi is striving hard to arrive at a solution. Seher Taneja, a class 10 student from Springdales School, Dhaula Kuan, has embarked upon a project to construct ‘mobile toilets’ to not only combat open defecation but to also generate energy by utilising the waste.

Every day, Seher said, her father would diagnose several cases of gastroenteritis at his clinic located in J.J. colony, Vikas Nagar. He would also complain about unhygienic conditions in the colony.

One day, she decided to visit the area herself.

“On my arrival, all I could smell was the stench of rotting refuse. The drains were stagnant with putrid water and piles of garbage and human faeces were lying in the open. When I started interacting with the people, they told me that since there was no cover for defecation, women had to wait till night to relieve themselves” Seher told Live Wire.

She also spoke about the situation elsewhere and how open defecation is affecting people’s health across the country.

Seher pitching her idea at an event in IIT-Delhi.

“In India, people have more mobile phones than working toilets. Open defecation is huge problem for this country because apart from creating a foul atmosphere, it also leads to the spread of germs and diseases. To solve this problem, we need to work as a community and I believe mobile toilets can do that,” she said.

That day, she went back home and decided to build a prototype of a mobile toilet as an attempt solve the problem.

The apparatus, she says, would consist of toilets in separate cabins. It will stand on a truck so that it can be easily transported from one place to another. The retractable stairs would be installed to climb up the toilet, entering which an audio speaker would provide pre-recorded instructions on how to use the toilet. The toilet would be of the Indian style (squatting) to reduce chances of contamination and infection.

Hygeine, Seher says, would be an important component in the whole apparatus.

The cabins, she says, would have an automatic lock system which would unlock only after the flush button is pressed.

“The vehicle will be powered by solar energy and will have separate toilets for males and females. The door of the toilet will open only if there is water in the toilets indicted by a blue light flashing at the entrance” she said.

Waste management

Seher also plans to use the waste to generate energy in order to make the toilets economically viable.

“All we need to do is reorient technology to generate a clean, alternative form of energy for our future in order to achieve the sixth Goal of Sustainable Development [clean water and sanitation],” she said. “The human race produces about 290 billion kg of faeces per year, and about 1.98 billion litres of urine. The UN report estimates that globally, human waste converted to fuel could have a value of about $9.5 billion.”

Seher’s mobile toilet will, therefore, produce odourless, colourless and inflammable biogas from the faeces collected.The biogas would be produced in a fixed-dome type of plant which can then be used to provide energy.

The produce, she says, would have a high calorific value and provide clean fuel. In addition, biomanure produced alongside would provide nutrient-rich (nitrogen an phosphorous) manure for plants thus doing away with organic fertilisers. In the future, Seher also plans to work on generating electricity from urine.

All images provided by Seher Taneja