Indian Railways: A Journey towards Swachh Bharat

H.C. Kunwar *

Jiribam-Silchar first daily passenger train flagged off by  Prime Minister Narendra Modi :: May 27 2016
Jiribam-Silchar first daily passenger train flagged off by PM Narendra Modi on May 27 2016 :: Pix - Momo Thoudam

With its green initiatives, Indian Railways is reinforcing its commitment to environmental sustainability and steadily proceed on a greener path. Indian Railways has taken several initiatives which reaffirm its obligation towards minimizing the impact of its operations on the environment.

Bio-Toilets in trains

In order to contribute to 'Swachh Bharat' mission launched by Prime Minister, Ministry of Railways have taken up a mammoth task of providing human discharge free bio-toilets in all its coaches and the this task would be completed by September 2019. With the provision of bio-toilets in all its coaches, discharge of human waste from trains on to the ground would be completely stopped which in turn would help in improving cleanliness and hygiene. Indian Railways have already provided 40,750 bio-toilets in its coaches till middle of this year and in the current financial year, it plans to fit additional 30,000 bio-toilets.

After extensive research and field level experimentation, Indian Railways have introduced Bio-toilets in trains that will contribute cleaner, environment friendly and more efficient discharge of human waste. The under slung tanks below the coach toilets have specially developed inoculums which continuously keep on decomposing the waste and regenerate itself. As a result no replenishment of bacteria is required and toilets are totally maintenance free.

The technology has been developed jointly by Indian Railways and Defence Research & Development Organization (DRDO) for railway passenger coaches. This environment friendly, low cost and robust technology, is the first of its kind in Railway Systems in the world

First Green Train Corridor

To mark the beginning of this journey towards 'Swachh Bharat', Ministry of Railways recently started 114 Kms long First Green Train Corridor - Rameswaram-Manamadurai track, free from human waste discharge from trains. Accordingly, 10 passenger trains consisting of 286 coaches moving over this section have been provided with bio-toilets.

After Rameswarm-Manamadurai, Okha-Kanalas Junction(141 Kms), Porbandar-Wansjaliya (34 Kms) and Jammu-Katra(78 Kms) would also be taken up for making them free from human waste discharge from trains.

For this around 35 trains consisting of nearly 1110 coaches would be further provided with bio toilets and the work is underway. These sections and stations were chosen, because the number of trains originating and terminating at these stations and sections are few, thus making it operationally easier and faster to make them human-discharge free.

In order to carry out efficient disposal of waste, Indian Railways has decided to provide separate dustbins for collections of biodegradable (wet waste) and non-biodegradable (dry waste) on the platforms and all passenger interface areas in A1 & A category stations apart from vending stalls. Zonal Railways will train the staff engaged in cleaning duties at railway stations for separate collection and further handling for final disposal of segregated dry and wet waste from the dustbins.

Indian Railways had already instructed for efficient disposal of waste arising out of pantry car services and static units as also to provide adequate dustbins on platforms and by the side of stalls at all railway stations for environment friendly disposal of waste

Indian Railways will provide different coloured dustbins and polythene liner bags for bio-degradable and non-biodegradable waste viz. Green for bio-degradable and Black for non-biodegradable. In the first phase. Zonal Railways will ensure provision of separate dustbins for segregated collection of garbage at all A1 category stations immediately, followed by 'A' category stations on or before the end of this year.

Countrywide mass mobilization activities on cleanliness

To commemorate the second anniversary of the country's Swachh Bharat Mission, countrywide mass mobilization activities were carried out on cleanliness and for Open Defecation Free communities.

In keeping pace with the programme, Indian Railways undertook intensive cleanliness drives on all stations. All stations wore the ceremonial look with posters and banners spelling the message loud and clear to the travelling public that the Railway is their travelling home. Railway officer and staff donned the ceremonial caps interacting with the travelling public and conducting inspections at station premises. Anti-littering slogans were posted at various locations.

Dustbins for garbage were provided and awareness programmes were undertaken. All major stations on the Northern Railway were inspected by all levels of hierarchy from top executives and supervisory cadres. A drive on garbage handling and disposal was also undertaken at railway stations, Trains and Depots. Tree plantation ceremonies were held at various places.

Earmarking each day with specific focus area for spruce-up, the cleanliness programme has certain defined themes like Swachh Stations (Clean Stations), Swachh Rail Gaadi (Clean Train), Swachh Neer (Clean Water), Swachh Parisar (Clean Complex), Swachh Samarpan (Dedication for ensuring Cleanliness), Swachh Aahar (Clean Food) etc. Indian Railways is committed to continue this Cleanliness drive on sustained basis. The Indian Railways has been constantly appealing to all rail users to express their solidarity through greater public support and an active public co-operation to make the Railways a place of pride and rail journey a pleasant experience.

Evaluation & Green rating of industrial units of Railways

A Memorandum of Understanding between Ministry of Railways and Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) to evaluate the Green Initiatives and rate the performance of Industrial Units of Indian Railways which are pursuing environmentally sustainable practices was signed in July this year. CII will extend technical co-operation for various Green initiatives in three Railway's Industrial establishments, with an objective to make Indian Railways, as a leading Government organisation in the field of Environment.

Increased reliance on renewable sources of energy

Indian Railways envisages sourcing at lease 10% of its energy requirements through new and renewable energy sources, achieving 15% enhanced energy through improved energy efficiency in both traction as well as non traction use.

Towards this end, solar panels at stations, level crossing gates, are being installed. A 10 MW windmill has been set up at Integral Coach Factory (ICF), Chennai which is expected to earn about 20,000 CERs (Carbon Emission Reduction) per annum. Two more windmill plants of 10.5 MW capacity have been sanctioned for Southern and North Western Railways through Public Private Participation.

In addition, new trains introduced in Mumbai suburban section with IGBT based propulsion system have been equipped with regenerative braking features which have recorded energy regeneration while braking to the tune of 35-40% of energy used for hauling these trains.

An alternative fuel Bio-diesel

Bio-diesel is an environment friendly, fuel used to replace Petro-diesel. This viable and indigenous alternative to fuel the railways is derived from multi feed stock like fresh and used vegetable oils of both non-edible & edible types, animal fats, grease etc. Indian Railways have decided to use bio-diesel extensively in its diesel locomotives and road vehicles. This environment friendly oil is free from sulphur and does not emit any sulphur dioxide. Its combusts completely releasing very little carbon monoxide.

Free distribution of CFLs

Indian Railways has also brought in annual reduction of 0.14 million tonnes of CO2 emissions through free distribution of 26 million CFLs (4 CFLs per family) to Railway employees in replacement of energy inefficient incandescent lamps. The project is entirely financed with the carbon credits earned under CDM framework.

* H.C. Kunwar wrote this article for PIB Feature and published at Imphal Times
The Author is an independent journalist. He was earlier associated with the PR Wing of Indian Railways
This article was posted on October 27, 2016.

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