Do the dirty on

Do the dirty on  the biotoilet technology introduced for solving sewage-caused pollution problem in Jammu and Kashmir's Dal lake has failed due to government apathy. The technology was introduced by the j&k Lakes and Waterways Development Authority (j&k lwda) in 1999. On a trial basis, 10 houseboats were fitted with floating septic biotoilet tanks.

The tanks comprise a primary digestion tank, a secondary digestion tank and a disinfecting tank. The technology works simply: waste, which primarily consists of human excreta, gets collected in the primary digestion tank, two-third of which is filled with water. At least 15 grammes of actizyme enzyme is added per day to the water for disintegration and digestion of the waste. The disintegrated waste flows to the secondary tank through a filter, with each flushing. In the secondary tank, the waste is treated again with actizyme, which makes it odourless. Thereafter, the waste is transferred to the disinfecting tank, treated with disinfectants and retained for sufficient time to destroy the pathogens. Ultimately, the treated waste is flushed in a waterbody.

The houseboat owners had welcomed the technology, but its failure later on proved to be a big setback. "During the 1999 winters, the toilets worked well. But during summers, when the tourist season is at its peak, they became a problem because usage of cow dung as actizyme failed. The toilets started stinking because of which many tourists vacated the houseboats,' says Bashir Ahmad Palla, secretary of the Dal Lake houseboat owners association. The owners used air pipes to overcome the problem, but this proved unsuccessful. Choking the exit pipe of the tanks also failed.

Thereafter, they approached j&k lwda officials, who cold-shouldered them. Official apathy also reflected in the fact that none of the agencies concerned had checked the functioning of the toilets since their installation. Even, the National Institute of Aquatic Engineering, formed by j&k lwda for the development of waterbodies, had no records relating to the installation and functioning of the toilets.

Palla accepts that the sewerage is deteriorating the lake's ecology, but asks in helplessness: "What can we do if not guided? We have lost faith in government agencies.' The biotoilets are now floating non-functional, waiting for a dekko from officials. Meanwhile, Dal lake is getting polluted with an estimated 30000-45000 litres of urine and 30 tonnes of human waste being dumped into it every month. The human waste is not only affecting the aquatic life by encouraging weed growth, but it is also affecting the health of those who use the water for drinking purposes.

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