Kerala to use robots to clean sewers, end manual scavenging

'Bandicoot' will start its work, so far mostly done manually, by cleaning sewer holes in the city during the coming famed Attukal Pongala festival in Thiruvananthapuram in March, it said.

By: PTI | Thiruvananthapuram | Published: January 11, 2018 8:32 pm
Chief Minister of Kerala Pinarayi Vijayan (Express Photo by Tashi Tobgyal/File) 

Robots will soon replace men in cleaning up sewer holes in Kerala, ending the age-old practice of manual scavenging in the southern state. ‘Bandicoot’, the robot developed by the startup firm Genrobotics, will be used for cleaning sewer holes.

The Kerala Water Authority (KWA) and Kerala Startup Mission (KSUM) on Thursday signed an MoU for transfer of technology and products, including use of the robots for the purpose. The MoU was signed between Kerala Water Innovation Zone under KWA and KSUM at the Chief Minister’s office in Thiruvananthapuram, a statement said here.

‘Bandicoot’ will start its work, so far mostly done manually, by cleaning sewer holes in the city during the coming famed Attukal Pongala festival in Thiruvananthapuram in March, it said.

The robot has four limbs and a bucket system attached to a spider web looking extension, which can go inside the manhole.

After shoveling the heap of garbage at the bottom of the manhole, it will be collected by using the bucket system before lifting it upward. It also has Wi-Fi and bluetooth modules, it said.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Minister for Water Resources Mathew T Thomas, IT Secretary M Sivasankar, KSUM CEO Saji Gopinath, Additional Chief Secretary, Water Resources,Tom Jose, KWA officials and eight representatives from Genrobotics were present on the occasion.

KSUM had funded for the project by Genrobotics, which conducted a field study to find a solution for manual scavenging.

Meanwhile, KWA is also also conducting research on the issue following the Chief Minister’s instruction to find a remedy for it. Genrobotics is planning to market the product within six months.

It has already got enquiries from states like Tamil Nadu to take it to the national-level. Founded in 2015, GenRobotics specialises in powered exoskeletons and human controlled robotic systems.

The robot is powered by pneumatics (using gas or pressurised air) since using heavy electronic equipment inside is risky as they can react with the explosive gases present in the manhole.

The KSUM is a nodal agency of the Kerala Government for entrepreneurship development and incubation activities in the state.

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  1. gopi krishnan
    Jan 20, 2018 at 6:41 am
    Gre8 to hear! It is an direct blow on the Hindu castist hierarchical system which has made castaway of lakhs and lakhs of people from the main stream in the name of untouchability. Hats off to Pinarayi...when India is able to send several sattelites to the space in a year what is wrong in replacing the manual scavenging which has treated a section of people in this country as untouchables over centuries.
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    1. Ravichandran Sreenivasan
      Jan 12, 2018 at 6:03 am
      Let's hope this works. Let's hope the city of Thiruvananthapuram, which was a clean city decades back, smells less of decaying animal waste, and more of nature especially trees.
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      1. Prasann Singh
        Jan 11, 2018 at 9:14 pm
        Great work as Cm of state. I hate communist party in INDIA but this move really commendable beyond praises.
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