Could this device developed by Shiv Nadar students solve India's manual scavenging problem?

Called the Sewage Squad, this device can help clear the sludge that often blocks drains and this is how the students worked on it 
Read their story | (Pic: Edexlive)
Read their story | (Pic: Edexlive)

For all the technological advancement we have achieved, it boggled the mind of five Class XI students of Shiv Nadar School, Gurugram, as to why a solution for manual scavenging wasn't devised yet. Well, as they say, if it hasn't been done, do it yourself. Hence, students Palak YadavSarthak AcharyaAnsh GuptaAnavi Kothari and Bahaar Dhingra set to work in March 2020 and strived through the ongoing pandemic to come up with a viable design and prototype of Sewage Squad, a lightweight and cost-effective sewage cleaner. 

"It is the newspapers that brought to our attention the number of deaths manual scavenging was causing, despite there being a ban on the practice," says Ansh. Now, imagine a 3-feet PVC pipe with an LED screen and handles (akin to those on a bicycle) at one end and the other end, which is thrust into the sewage hole, has multiple functions. Beginning with a gas detection system that consists of multiple sensors that can detect ammonia, carbon monoxide, methane and hydrogen sulphide gases. "It is the inhalation of these gases that often leads to the death of manual scavengers, so what this sensor does is detect the level of these gases," explains Ansh, further giving credit to Sarthak for putting pen to paper to design the prototype. "Our current prototype is surely less complex," points out Sarthak. 

There is also a camera attached that relays back the visuals to the LED screen, which can be the eyes of the operator of this device. Next comes the water jet mechanism that helps saturate the bigger particles and make them smaller and then, the presence of rotating circular blades further cuts these parts into much smaller pieces that facilitates the smooth flowing of the drains. "It is the ties formed by the sludge that create the problem in the first place. So, the water jet mechanism and rotating blades help with that," informs Ansh. There is also a suction pump that helps pull out the sludge and further clear the passageway for the drain.

The five students have come up with this device with the hope that it will be used by present manual scavengers so that their livelihood is not in jeopardy and neither do they need to descend into the hellholes. "To facilitate this, an audio system, which currently works in Hindi, can explain to the operator how the device needs to be used. The LCD screen also helps with this," explains the youngster. It is Bahaar who informs that they had to go through several iterations, as many as three, to zero in on their current model. They even spoke to safai karamcharis (those involved with the task of sanitation work) and their supervisors to get more perspectives on the problem.

This project is the result of Shiv Nadar Foundation's Capstone Project for Classes VII to X, which covers multiple aspects of technology like skill-building, design, programming and more, shares Mark Nelson, Project Lead - IT at Shiv Nadar School. This project was presented at the school's annual tech event Colloquium where it won the audience poll prize. Though Sewage Squad is not an industry-grade device yet, the students are serious about working on it further and bringing it to the level where it can be tested, informs Sarthak. The plan further is to collaborate with NGOs and get more feedback on their device.  

Related Stories

No stories found.