Poverty has forced people coming from low-income groups to perform menial yet life-threatening jobs. One such job is manual scavenging or cleaning the sewers off toxic human waste.
The major problem with manual scavenging is that the unskilled labourers are forced to get down in the filth without wearing safety gears, hence getting exposed to poisonous gases. According to sources, this activity was banned in India in 1993. But the practice still prevails and till now 620 deaths have been recorded.
According to a 2018 report by the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis (NCSK), one person loses his life in every five days while cleaning sewers and septic tanks in the country. But now, to their relief, an IIT Madras Professor has come up with an apt solution.
Dr. Prabhu Rajagopal, who works at the Centre for Non-Destructive Evaluation at IIT-Madras, has invented a 50-kg, pneumatic-powered, remote-controlled robot, which can be sent down in the sewer and septic lines for cleaning it.
According to a report by India Today, the robot is named Sepoy Septic Tank Robot, has 360-degree motion arm technology which can sweep the underground manhole floor while collecting the filth.
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The robot has a camera installed in it. Hence, an operator sitting outside can see the condition of the sewer on a screen, in accordance to which he/she can regulate the robot. It is also installed with high-velocity cutters which can cut through the thick layers of waste. The machine needs very less maintenance and costs between Rs. 5-10 lakhs.
“Our goal is to prevent human entry into septic tanks. It is a question of the life of the human beings entering into the tanks which contain hazardous gases and harmful microbes. Our current Robot and future additions are aimed at achieving an integrated solution such that no human entry will be required to access, clean and maintain Septic Tanks,” Dr. Rajagopal said.
The robot is expected to hit the market within the next 2 years. For now, extensive field-trials and mock-trials are underway. They have been connected to the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis and different Municipal Corporations. They are also looking for commercial partners to help them develop their project forward.
It’s high time that an alternative for sewage cleaning was put to use instead of putting lives at risk. Kudos to IIT-Madras for encouraging this initiative!