ItalyIndia design
ItalyIndia design
ItalyIndia design
ItalyIndia design
ItalyIndia design
ItalyIndia design
ItalyIndia design

34. Humanure, a recharging toilet

Illustration: on green background a indian man sit on a toiet with a light bulb on in his hjand, the wire connetcted to the toilet; on the left the text

In India there are more mobile phones than bathrooms, and that’s a fact. Electricity lacks, but still people buy mobiles. According to the data (2011), the 46,9% of the population has a bathroom inside the house, and the 53% has a mobile phone. Let’s say it with numbers: 642 million Indians don’t have a toilet, 644 million Indians have a mobile phone. 400 million lack electricity.
Anoop Jain, a young Indian, gave birth to the Humanure Power Project to solve the problem of outdoor defecation and create clean energy.

What does it mean when you don’t have a bathroom?
If you’re only traveling, you’ll experience it as an unusual open-air adventure, but if you’re settled in a village, you will notice that for inhabitants it is a solid habit – and a particularly unpleasant one, especially for women. In fact, a woman must “program” her functional needs to avoid exposure in plain daylight.
The lack of adequate bathrooms in schools forces many parents to stop the education of their adolescent daughters.
Outdoor defecation means you have to crouch in the middle of nowhere – in the urban slums, this “nowhere” is along the railway lines (my very first memory of Mumbai is a raw of men defecating while my train was entering the city) – or in the fields and along rivers and ponds.
When you are finished, you clean yourself with the water (if there is). Obviously, one of the immediate consequence of this practice is the propagation of infectious diseases such as dysentery, malaria or typhus fever.

For many Indians, outdoor bathroom may be uncomfortable, but they don’t consider it as an issue. There are not many people ready to invest their money on a bathroom. With the cow dung you cook and you daub the walls, but the human feces are considered something extremely impure, and for that they must be kept far from the holiness of the house.

To fix this issue, Anoop Jain and his team of students created the Humanure Power Project.
The pilot project started in Bihar, one of the region with the lowest amount of toilets installed. Make people change their opinions on toilet was the main objective of the project.
Even in the villages without bathrooms and electricity, people buy themselves mobiles. Since even if you don’t have a toiled, you have to express your functional needs, Anoop decided to set up an implant that could generate energy from the biogas generated by human feces – with the purpose of selling it in order to obtain more funds and build more public infrastructures – as long as encouraging people to use them.
The feces gathered end in a biogas tank to produce methane. Its combustion generates electricity. 90 kg of feces provide energy to sustain 1200 lights (60w) for six hours. Since in India there are often no electricity implant around, Humanure started to produce rechargeable 12 V batteries to sell. This batteries comes with very convenient prices (lower than the normally used kerosene). When the battery is over, you give it back to a Humanure authorized center – and they will give you a charged one.

A simple idea, simply explained by the HHP team to Bihar. And slowly the region is starting to see the advantage of this public toilets and spreading the rumors to the unconvinced. The more you go to the bathroom, the more you charge your phone and your village!


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