Students’ solution to manual scavenging awaits deployment


Bangalore, March 1, 2018: When a team of students from Reva University, Bengaluru, came up with an innovation that promised to put an end to manual scavenging, the BWSSB reportedly promised to support the building of its final version. It even said the technology would be deployed in the city.

Three manual scavengers have died in Bengaluru since that promise was made in September 2017, but there has been no headway in putting it to use.

Surprisingly, a senior BWSSB officer seems unaware of any such innovation or promise.

BWSSB junior engineer M.Y. Hanumantharaju informed The Observer that “unless the head office clears it”, he could not talk about it. But chief engineer (project zone) KR Manjunath, citing a miscommunication, said he was unaware of the development. “If the students approach us and give us a presentation about the robot, we will be happy to consider it,” he added.

Dr Jagadeeswaran N, associate professor, mechanical engineering, who guided the students in the making of the robot, said that because they have signed a patent, they are not allowed to divulge any details. The project is still in progress.

The Sewage Blockage Removal Robot was designed by Suraj N, Santhosh Reddy KV and Vinay Kumar P. It won an award in the Best Demonstration and Presentation category from e-Yantra, an initiative of IIT-Bombay, in April 2017.

The robot uses artificial intelligence and Internet of Things to detect blockages in sewerage. It deploys trays to remove material choking drains, making human involvement unnecessary.

A similar attempt has been made by nine engineering students in Kerala. They have designed a spider-shaped robot that cleans manholes and sewers. Called Bandicoot, the robot has successfully completed a trial run in Thiruvananthapuram after having unclogged five manholes. The Kerala Water Authority is reported to have decided to deploy Bandicoot in Thiruvananthapuram.

Despite a ban, manual scavenging continues unchecked, claiming lives and damaging the health of people involved in it.

On the first day of 2018, four workers repairing a sewer line in Powai, Mumbai, were killed when the rope of the crane lifting them back snapped. Three died instantly when they fell nine metres; the fourth man succumbed to his injuries the next day.

On January 7, three workers suffocated to death while cleaning a blocked manhole in a residential block in HSR Layout, Bengaluru. The dead men were identified as Madegowda, Narayanaswamy and Srinivas, all in the 30-35 age group.

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