#WorldToiletDay: Sewer cleaning machine unveiled after 16 manual scavengers died in Delhi last year

New Delhi: It was not long ago that Microsoft founder Bill Gates surprised everyone by displaying a jar of human waste at a forum on the future of toilets in Beijing. Addressing the problem of the lack of enough toilets, affecting developing countries around the world, Gates had said, “In places without sanitation you have got way more than that. And that’s what kids when they are out playing, they are being exposed to all the time, and that’s why we connect this not just with quality of life, but with disease and death and with malnutrition.”

Today, on World Toilet Day 2018, India still has several pockets where the culture of using toilets instead of open defecation is alien. But, while this problem is being fought by the government, another major problem was addressed earlier this year, when several manual scavengers died in Delhi while cleaning manholes.

Indigenously developed and an ultramodern sewer cleaning machine vehicle was launched on the occasion of World Toilet Day to check the deaths of workers in sewers by the BJP president, Delhi, Manoj Tiwari in the presence of Sulabh founder Dr Bindeshwar Pathak, and mayors of all three Municipal Corporations of Delhi.

Sanitation pioneer Sulabh International will provide services to clean manholes in coming days to help reduce human casualties inside manholes in national capital.

At least one Indian worker has died while cleaning sewers or septic tanks every five days since the beginning of 2017, according to the first official government statistics on the work. According to data available on National Commission for Safai Karamcharis website, 16 sewer deaths were reported in Delhi in 2017. Last year, 39 people died across 100 days in India. In September this year, 11 Indians died while cleaning sewers or septic tanks without adequate safety gear, of which five died in a single incident in Delhi.

“These days we often hear the tragic news about many sewer workers losing their lives while working inside the sewer. This is a matter of grave concern for all of us, and thus Sulabh International decided to organise the World Toilet Day on the theme of ‘Safety Measures for Cleaning Sewers to Prevent Deaths of Sewer Workers’”, observed Sulabh International Founder Dr Pathak. “We have procured a unique equipment to ensure cleaning of manholes and deep sewers without human loss in near future,” he added.

Dr Pathak said that the new machine is ideal for periodic mechanical desilting of manholes and to flush out sewer lines using the powerful jetting pump capable of producing 150 bar operating pressure and a flow of 150 litres per minute. It is also capable of de-choking sewer line using especially designed flexible steel rods.

The new machine can ensure that no cleaning staff have to ever enter the sewer line risking their life and violating the Manual Scavenging Act.

Vehicle mounted, electro-hydraulically operated, and mechanical manhole desilting machine comes along with personal protective devices and sewer quick view pipe inspection camera.

Nearly a century after Mahatma Gandhi called for the abolition of manual scavenging, the degrading practice continues. According to various sources, during the last three years, there have been over 1,300 deaths of manual scavengers while entering sewer lines.