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India army offers 'glacier toilet' in hi-tech sell-off

Published Jan 03, 2012 04:05am


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A "bio-digester" toilet, developed by the Indian military, is pictured at a public park in New Delhi.—AFP

NEW DELHI: Developed for troops serving on glaciers high in the Himalayas, the non-flushing “bio-digester” toilet made by India's top defence research body is now being offered to companies and poorer states.

It is one of 200 technologies produced by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) identified as for sale via the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).

The national trade body and DRDO in October forged a four-year partnership to hawk dual-use military products as part of Premier Manmohan Singh's pledge in 2008 to offer defence technology spin-offs to the public, officials said.

The “bio-digester” is among 10 of the DRDO products put on the fast-track for sale to state governments and private companies, an Indian defence ministry official added.

“Our condition is to take any non-classified technology (that can be used) for the benefit of the common man,” said Nirankar Saxena, Executive Director of FICCI's Centre for Technology Commercialisation, which heads the project.

The “bio-digester” toilet conceived by a DRDO unit in the city of Gwalior, works by mixing self-multiplying bacteria with human waste in specially-made tanks, resulting in the production of methane gas and water.

It was meant for Indian combat troops deployed on Siachen, a 6,300-metre-high (20,800-feet-high) glacier in disputed Kashmir where temperatures can fall up to to minus 50 degrees Celsius (minus 58 degrees Fahrenheit).

Experts say they believe some 5,000 soldiers are deployed on the frigid wasteland, where calm has prevailed since a 2003 ceasefire with rival Pakistan.

“Work on it began 15 years ago because excreta buried in snow by soldiers in the Siachen glacier polluted rivers when the ice melted,” said scientist Vijay Veer of the Defence Research and Development Establishment, a DRDO unit.

The bacteria used in the mountain version of the toilet were originally found in Antarctica, but another cocktail can be used in the hot tropical plains where the need for toilets in India is most acute.

FICCI's Saxena said the Indian territory of Lakshadweep —a cluster of islands —has sought 12,000 bio-digesters at some 25,000 rupees ($550) a unit for a major housing project.

Other DRDO products include heat shields for trains and vehicles, windows that control light penetration, mosquito repellents and medical kits to tackle dengue and chikungunya, both insect-borne viruses.

They also plan to market a spray that guarantees to keep woollen clothes moth-free, affordable fire extinguishers and a body cream that keeps bed bugs away.

The DRDO also has high hopes for its “Heat Stabilised Narrow Fabrics and Cordages for Improved Elastic Recovery Property” which military boffins believe could be used in bras.

“The technology is a heat-stablised narrow fabric and the elastic in it is more robust than materials used in commercial brassieres,” a DRDO official added.


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Comments (20) Closed

dawn reader Jan 03, 2012 10:01am
whats the equivalent of drdo in pak?
AQK Jan 03, 2012 10:20am
Neena Jan 03, 2012 10:22am
vasist Jan 03, 2012 10:59am
10,000 likes from me Mr.AQK
Neena Jan 03, 2012 11:07am
Yogendra(INDIA) Jan 03, 2012 11:36am
Thanks DRDO for all round efforts. We have miles and miles to go and achieve a lot yet. Wish you good luck for future.
Broadsword Jan 03, 2012 11:40am
AQK, that's hilarious!
senthil Jan 03, 2012 11:44am
Funny but true.
Tamil Arasan Jan 03, 2012 11:46am
Bravo!!! you need guts to accept the truth and reality...
Tariq Ali Khan Jan 03, 2012 12:04pm
An opening for our defence industry. They can work and can produce necessary capital to boost research in defence related subjects. Aim should be commercialization and research. And it is a very good example of research commercialization. I hope Pakistan industry will work on it and I am sure in near future industry may look into research carried out in different universities for commercialization purpose.
Muhammad Iftikhar Jan 03, 2012 01:46pm
In Pakistan,Ministry of Defense Production,looks after such affairs. Heavy Industrial complex Texila and Pakistan Aeronautical complex Kamra are two main manufacturing facilities. The Research in Defense Production,in Pakistan,is decentralized. Like PAC independently carries out its research. The Role of China is definitely substantial in Projects like,Karakorum-8 and JF-17 Thunder aircraft.
APJAK Jan 03, 2012 09:05pm
Just the right invention by India...... hope India would be cleaner now.....!!
Jan Jan 03, 2012 09:12pm
@APJAK Funny but true. India definitely needs cleaning up....!!
Silly Billy Jan 03, 2012 09:19pm
@AQK: Spot on and funny!!!
Imran Jan 04, 2012 01:52am
Would that Indians could make toilets for their slums overstretched. . . !
asghar khan Jan 04, 2012 03:32am
hmmm, Chinese technology equally benefits from our help..
itsyou Jan 04, 2012 04:53am
india needs tons of cleaning up to do and needs lots more such mobile-bio-toilets.
saurabh Jan 04, 2012 06:32am
Ha ha ha ha Super duper hilarious
saurabh Jan 04, 2012 06:36am
Ha ha ha ha Too good AQK
Igloo Jan 04, 2012 02:34pm
Come on guys please keep it real. Please dont stoop to the level too many Indians seem to on the Times of India site - when replying to Pakistan stories. Pakistan needs this technology as much as India. For decades I have been stunned by the lack of this type of solution in Pakistan. Izzat is such a big deal and lack of toilets causes many issues - some obvious, some hidden behind the 'purdah'.