Thiruvananthapuram: In a first in Kerala, the state government will soon be utilising the services of robots to clean sewer holes. The trial runs of the robot, developed by a startup company, Genrobotics, have been successfully held recently and the product will be launched next week, Kerala Water Authority (KWA) Managing Director, A Shainamol said.
“The Kerala government is very excited with the project,” said Shainamol. The robot, equipped with Wi-Fi, bluetooth and control panels has four limbs and a bucket system attached to a spider web looking extension to scoop out the waste from sewers.
The project is supported by KWA, which has joined hands with Kerala start up mission to transform new ideas into practical technologies for addressing issues relating to pipe leakage and sanitation. “Our intention is to promote local talent. Now the product, being fully funded by the government, is ready and it will be launched next week,” she said.
Initially, the services of the robot, christened ‘Bandicoot’ will be utilised in Thiruvananthapuram, which has over 5,000 manholes. The trial run of the robot, developed by the nine-member group of youngsters from varying engineering streams, had been conducted successfully in the state capital recently, CEO and chief product architect of Genrobotics, Vimal Govind said.
The youngsters have given up their steady jobs to find a solution to end manual scavenging in an effort to bring in some resemblance of dignity to the lives of these “invisible” men who are paid a pittance between Rs 300-500 for their effort running into several hours.
According to Govind during the trials held near the Medical college here, about 30 kg of garbage was pulled out by the robot and they were shocked to find sanitary napkins, clothes, surgical blades among other stuff in the clogged manholes.
Within an hour, the robot could clean four manholes on the first day itself with ease and it did not face any problem to manoeuvre its way to different types of manholes. “This will be a life changing opportunity for the cleaning men.. their life will become better.. Though happy with the product, they are apprehensive if they will lose their source of livelihood,” he said.
However, there was no cause for any worry says chief operating officer Rashid K as their plan was to train existing workers to operate the robot, which was as easy to handle as a remote controlled toy car. All the commands in the user interface was now in English. But this can be converted to any local language for easy understanding of the scavengers, he said.