A novel solution to India's crappy problem

Who knew that penguin excreta could have answers for India's open defecation plague?

Perhaps the biggest scourge that Indians face is not malaria or malnutrition, but open defecation. It is a global problem, with more than 1 billion people having to go to the toilet outside their homes. But no country has it as bad as India does, with over half its population, or at least 600 million people, doing so.

wock toilets
Wockhardt's innovative bio toilets.

This is the number one cause of disease and other serious ailments, according to health experts, so it is something that affects not just the dignity of the majority of India’s citizens, but undoubtedly impacts the country's GDP, as well.

The article also busts a popular myth that Indians prefer defecating in the open for convenience's sake — for instance, 84 percent of rural households surveyed in the impoverished state of Bihar said that they desired toilets but couldn't afford them.

Consequently, a few microfinance institutions have apparently kicked into action, and have begun financing loans that are specifically for sanitation purposes. What's more is that these loans are seeing 99 percent repayment rates, proving that the poor are very serious about trying to resolve this most pernicious of problems afflicting them. (Meanwhile, the Gates Foundation recently ran a global competition for the most innovative solution to this problem.)

So it comes as a major source of relief and pride that an ingenious idea, devised and implemented in India recently, that tackles this problem has to go to Huzaifa Khorakiwala, the heir to the throne of pharmaceutical giant Wockhardt.

Khorakiwala, who has an MBA from Yale, has apparently developed a bio-digester technology that strangely enough depends on a bacteria found in a place as far removed from India as can be — Antarctica. The psychrophile bacteria is able to break down human excreta into water and gas through an anaerobic process, which for Indians could be more of a miracle than waking on water.

"Defence researchers found the penguin excreta disappearing in the sub-zero temperature. The bacteria was derived and developed by the DRDO for complete human waste decomposition," said Naveed Pasha of the Wockhardt Foundation in the Hindu article.

The bio toilets have been piloted in slums and highway stops across the country, and apparently 70,000 of them have been installed across the country, with more orders on the way.

Now if only more such endeavours came out of corporate India, our society and economy wouldn't be mired in such deep s***.