Engineers developed robot to clean Manholes to end manual scavenging

   Manual scavenging is outlawed in India, yet thousands of people are still engaged in the work and many die cleaning sewers. According to the Safai Karmachari Andolan, a movement to eradicate manual scavenging, at least 1,470 manual scavengers died at work between 2010 and 2017. There are an estimated 1.8 lakh people in the country working as manual scavengers.

   Now, though, a group of engineers from Kerala may have found a way to end the “dehumanising practice”. They have designed a spider-shaped robot that cleans manholes and sewers with precision. Called Bandicoot, it has already successfully completed a trial run in Thiruvananthapuram, unclogging five manholes filled with plastic, filth, medical waste and sediments.

  The robot, which takes 15 minutes to clean small sewers and around 45 minutes to unclog bigger ones, was developed by Genrobotics, a company founded by nine young engineers in Thiruvananthapuram two years ago. “Our ultimate aim is to end manual scavenging in India,” said Vimal Govind, the company’s 25-year-old chief executive officer. “It is time to change manholes to roboholes.”

Following the successful trial earlier this month, the Kerala Water Authority has decided to use Bandicoot to clean all sewers in Thiruvananthapuram.

   Bandicoot, thus, is a ray of hope. It only requires a person to operate it from a safe distance. The 80-kg robot lifts the heavy metal cover on its own, drops its arm into the manhole, scoops out the solid waste and dumps it in a bucket. “All operations can be viewed on a monitor,” Govind explained. “The robot can also be used to check the sewage apart from jetting the sewer lines.”

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