Image: Amit Verma
In a country where open defecation and toilet maintenance are still a problem, self-cleaning, portable and eco-friendly eToilets are an affordable option. Made by Eram Scientific Solutions, a company based in Kerala, the eToilets are the first unmanned electronic public toilets in India.
The toilets, which work with a sensor-based technology and have a mechanism for cleaning and conserving water, are maintained and monitored remotely by means of a GPRS-enabled system.
"These are unmanned toilets with automated access control. There is a diagnosis and remote management through web reports. Waste processing is done through the attached STP (wastewater treatment plant), "says Dr. Siddeek Ahmed, president and CEO of Eram Scientific, which began providing them on a commercial basis in 2010.
The first unit was installed in Kozhikode in Kerala, after a sales movement by the saleswomen who worked in the stores motivated the corporation to approach Eram.
Since then, Eram Scientific has installed more than 3,000 eToilets in India and abroad. Buyers of eToilets include Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), Tata Consultancy Services, Kerala Women's Development Corporation, municipal corporations, panchayats and cantonment boards. "On World Toilet Day 2018, Indian Railways introduced eToilets in coaches. While companies like TCS have bought these eToilets as part of their CSR activities, "says Ahmed.
The price of eToilets varies from ₹ 2 lakh to ₹ 20 lakh for different variants, including those for people with different abilities.
Customers can also choose between the coin-operated ticket and free access to the bathroom. Most government and corporate clients choose coin-operated entry (usually Re 1) to avoid misuse, while free access is preferred for use in government schools. In rural areas, these toilets are also being financed by parliamentarians, MLAs and local panchayats.
Unmanned toilets must be maintained for which Eram has an Annual Maintenance Contract Plan (AMC). "The cost of maintenance per month starts at ₹ 3,500 (without manual cleaning), while the integral AMC rate is ₹ 5,100 per month / unit covering technical maintenance, web support, physical cleaning at periodic intervals, replacement of spare parts and components, and insurance costs. "
Initially, it was a difficult job to convince people in rural areas to use the toilets. "Other challenges we faced were vandalism, an attitude of public apathy towards public service systems, lack of ownership by certain clients, difficulties in maintaining public services and a serious shortage of experienced personnel to work in the sector. of the toilets, "says Ahmed.
But over the years, they have adjusted the model based on user comments and have created more awareness. A pictorial representation of "how to use" is provided outside of eToilets. "We have also established a 24-hour helpline to guide and help users," says Ahmed.
The company also launched an eToilet application as part of the establishment of a new connected eToilet infrastructure. The application can help you locate the closest eToilets through maps and address listings.
"In the future we will partner with Saudi Arabia to equip the country with sustainable sanitation solutions, and we are reaching out to more GCC countries to develop comprehensive sanitation solutions," says Ahmed.