Thanjavur: Technology is welcome if it puts an end to occupational hazard and social stigma attached to works like manual scavenging. Entering a manhole of an underground drainage and cleaning is wrought with danger.
Besides the job posing health problems, even lives are lost due to hazardous and obnoxious gases that emanate at some places. If it can be done with a robot, why it should not be tried? The Temple town of Kumbakonam in Thanjavur district is trying it-thanks to pro-active initiative taken by Pradeep Kumar, young, dynamic sub-collector of Kumbakonam.
“Having come to know that a robotic scavenger- Bandicoot, product of a Kerala-based start up, has been introduced in Thiruvananthapuram city in Kerala for cleaning underground drainage, I thought of introducing it in the temple town of Kumbakonam, so that the town may set an example for the whole state of Tamil Nadu. I approached the company and also Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) for funding the robot as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).Help came through and we introduced the machine recently,” said Pradeep Kumar, who is committed to the policy of putting an end to manual scavenging.
The cost of the machine is Rs 17 lakh. But the company has given it for Rs 9 lakh borne by the IOC, said Pradeep Kumar.The “Bandicoot” produced by Genrobotics, a startup promoted by a group of engineers from Kerala, is equipped with Wi-Fi, blue tooth, control panels. It has four limbs and a bucket system attached to spider web loop extension to scoop out waste from sewer.
“We spend Rs 1.5 lakh for cleaning 500 manholes manually in a year. If the machine can clean them, we can get back the money spent on the machines in five or six years. Cost-wise also it is economical. With a view not to send the workers from job, we are going to train them for managing the machine themselves.
Training will start on August 15 and go on till August 20. Three persons will be in charge of the robot. Based on its success, if more machines are introduced more men will be trained,” said Pradeep Kumar.
The machine has a service warranty for 10 years, the sub-collector said. K.Umamaheswari, commissioner, Kumbakonam municipality said that on rare occasions, when there is a block, workers enter manholes and not on all occasions. “We have Jet rodding and desilting machines maintained by 26 persons. The maintenance work has been given on outsourcing to a company. This jet rodding can enter only vertically and clean the drainage. But in the robot, it can operate on all directions and clean the drainage” Umamaheswari said.
The robot was pressed into service on July 21 for cleaning underground drainage at Sri Nagar colony. G. Prakash, commissioner of Municipal Administration pressed the robot into service.
Underground drainage system became operational in Kumbakonam in 2008-09. The system has pipelines running to a length of 125 kms and there are 5,309 manholes. There are 19,421 house connections.Vimal Govind from the engineering firm in Kerala which designed the robot said, the robot can clear to a distance of six mts inside the drainage. Using six surveillance cameras, blocks can be identified and machine can be pressed into service.