Human waste corroding Indian railway network

February 22, 2012

Human faeces is scattered across India’s 64,400 kilometres of rail lines.

One of the world’s largest surface transport networks, carrying 30 million people and 2.8 tonnes of goods daily, is being downed by those using it.

A government panel report this month said that human waste from open-discharge toilets used by passengers is damaging tracks and associated infrastructure.

The report recommended that toilets with nil or harmless discharge be installed within the next five years in all 43,000 carriages used by the railways.

“Apart from the issue of hygiene, this has several serious safety implications arising out of corrosion of rails and related hardware,” the report said.

Waste is dumped directly on to the tracks through small holes from western-style and squat toilets inside trains.

Only a handful of luxury tourist trains like the “Palace on Wheels”, running between New Delhi and Rajasthan, have bathrooms with well-built toilets.

In a country where millions lack access to basic sanitation, it is not unusual to see people urinating and defecating in public near train lines, particularly in suburban areas.

Many passengers ignore requests to not use toilets when trains halt. Apart from the unbearable stench it creates, the practice leads to clogging of rail lines at busy stations.

The safety review committee appointed by the railway ministry and led by top Indian scientist Anil Kakodkar estimated that 30 billion rupees ($609.5 million) would be needed to fit new toilets over the next five years.

Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi will present the annual railway budget on March 14. A fare hike, vital to generate more money to invest in improving the creaking system, may be on the cards, although Trivedi’s political boss Mamata Banerjee is pushing against higher prices.


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I recall Laloo Prasad talking about a solution to waste from Rail Carriages dropping on the rails. A waste recycling system was to be installed beneath all carriages. Following his stint Mamata was Railway Minister then someone else from her Party who occupies the post of Railway Minister now. What happened to the solution? Are we all being taken for a ride?

Posted by Nripinder | Report as abusive

I don’t know why mamta wants to prevent price hikes. Its not as if the cost is going away. Steel, infrastructure everything costs more. Through a pure political agenda for masses she is passing the buck on to the government to bear the losses. Railways is not an NGO welfare organization it is supposed to be run for a profit.

Poor waste management, extremely poor maintenance and neglect by employees not to do their day to day jobs makes the whole system defunct. Maybe ministers taking up public sector industry portfolios need to have a past performance as a prerequisite for taking up new positions or even standing for next elections for a seat.

Posted by Amrith | Report as abusive

Politicians like Mamta do not want common people and Industries to see growing. These guys know if they let them educate, give better facilities, give them opportunity to grow, then who will care for illiterate / poorly educated politicians.

We must dump these politicians like our railway is dumping human faeces.

Posted by rajeshchandani | Report as abusive