Company Develops Machine to Stop Sewer Deaths in IndiaMarie Donlon | November 19, 2018
Each year, the death toll on manual scavengers in India — those tasked with removing debris and waste from sewers throughout India — reaches into the hundreds. To reduce this human toll, an Indian company is offering a solution that replaces manual picking with pumps that send high-pressure water through sewer tunnels with an accompanying remote-control camera.
Thousands of low-caste Indians work as manual scavengers, responsible for unclogging debris and human waste from underground pipes coursing beneath India.
In the past three years, over 1,300 manual scavengers have died, mostly due to suffocation. This typically occurs as the workers scrape waste using their bare hands and without the aid of masks or other protective gear.
A company called Sulabh proposes using a machine that forces high-pressure water through India’s tunnels and tanks and collects waste by a mechanical bucket operated from above-ground. While the machine does its work, a remote-controlled camera captures high-res images of the sewer system.
Calling the work of the manual scavengers demeaning, Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of Sulabh, said, "We hear so often the tragic news about sewer workers losing their lives.
"This machine can safely clean the waste matter and it will gradually make manual scavenging redundant.
"With this machine we hope no person will die in the sewers any more."
Despite several laws in place outlawing the practice of manual scavenging, many subcontractors throughout India continue to hire scavengers.