After its decision to install incinerators for safe disposal of sanitary waste in two locations in the city, the BMC’s Slum Sanitation Program (SSP) department has approached IIT-Bombay Industrial Design Centre (IDC) to devise a solution for collecting sanitary napkins disposed of by users. The prototype is being designed by BK Chakravarthy, head of IDC at IIT Bombay, which would subsequently be put to test in two slums in the city later this month.
According to SSP officials, about 6-7 per cent of the total waste generated in the city (around 10,500 metric tonnes) comprises sanitary waste. Such kind of waste is the primary cause behind choked drains in toilets in the slums.
“Menstruation has a lot of cultural impositions on a woman’s life and a certain secrecy associated with it. Women, who use community toilets in slums, would thus rather throw their sanitary napkins in the toilet than bring it out and throw it in the dustbin,” said an SSP official. He added that about 20 per cent of toilets in the slums are defunct due to blockages caused by sanitary waste.
The incinerators, which were supposed to come up in Bhandup and Mankhurd, are yet to take off since the funds are yet to be sanctioned. SSP officials, however, stated that even with the installation of the incinerators, thought to be a permanent solution for proper disposal of sanitary waste, the method of collecting the napkins is yet to be put in place.
Chakravarthy stated that the bag he is designing would be set up inside the toilet cubicle and can be easily emptied and re-used.
“The bag would be able to carry the weight of the napkins and at the same time the contents can be easily removed by opening a zip at the base of the bag. The cleaners won’t have contact with the sanitary waste at any point,” he said.
The bags, made out of nylon polyester, would also have instructions of proper disposal printed on the bag in Marathi. “We hope to produce about 50 pieces and will monitor the usage to make necessary changes in the design if required,” Chakravarthy said.
IDC is coordinating with BMC and an NGO called Pratha Samajik Sanstha (PSS) for the pilot run of the collection bags. “There is no flush system in slum toilets. Thus, unlike in residential buildings, when women throw their sanitary napkins into the toilets, they clog the drains which have to be removed manually. This collection bag can offer a complete solution to the problem by maintaining the secrecy women want to maintain,” said Anil Bhatia, director of PSS. He added that after the first prototypes are manufactured, they plan to test them in localities with a dense slum population like Mankhurd and Ghatkopar.
In addition to the likely installation of collection bags inside toilet cubicles, SSP has also selected two mahila mandals (women groups) and had given a six-day training on sanitation awareness to about 400 women in November last year.
“Installation of facilities is not enough to solve the issue of sanitary waste in this city. Women living in slums need to be educated about this issue and members of these mahila mandals would help in spreading awareness and instructing women about proper methods of disposing sanitary napkins,” said the SSP official.